Mental health a key pivot in Future Generali's brand story: Ruchika Varma

Varma, CMO, Future Generali India Insurance, revealed that more than 23% surge in search for health insurance makes Google even more central to the company's media planning objectives

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jun 4, 2021 9:36 AM
Ruchika Varma

Leading with a human touch, life insurance company Future Generali has made it a mission to be at the forefront of the much-needed mental health conversation in India. From roping in fitness influencers and celebrities to rolling out impactful multi-video campaigns like #HealthInsideOut, FGII has propelled a movement urging all Indians to take their mental health seriously.

Its latest YouTube series – ‘Mind Matters’ portrays India’s top athletes in a completely new light, speaking about their mental health battles and simultaneously creating mental health awareness. exchange4media chatted with Ruchika Varma, CMO, Future Generali India Insurance on the campaign, strategy behind using sports personalities to strike conversations on health; business strategy for 2021 and more.

Edited excerpts below:

What was the thought process behind the brand selecting mental health as the key talking point? 

India has a large, unaddressed mental health problem. WHO estimates that one in every five Indians is suffering from some kind of mental health issue, made only worse by the COVID-19 situation. Excessive worries about physical health, financial insecurity due to extended lockdowns, long periods of social disconnection, and fear of losing jobs continue to plague Indians' mental health. And this is not even taking into account the crippling second of COVID-19, which only serves to exacerbate the problem.

Unfortunately, discussing mental illness continues to be considered taboo in India. As a brand whose purpose is to be a lifetime partner for the customers and lead with empathy, human touch and innovation, we realized an urgent need to start a conversation around mental health in India. We aim to bring conversations around mental health to our living rooms. 

We did this with our #HealthInsideOut campaign, the first phase of which was launched on World Mental Health day in 2020. We started the conversation by launching an API-based diagnostic tool, Total Health Score, to help people analyze their mental and physical health status. We then built the conversation by launching a multi-video campaign where inanimate objects told the story of mental illness from their perspective. 

‘Mind Matters’ is yet another initiative by FGII to create awareness around the issue. This unique talk show created and curated by Future Generali, offers a sneak peek into the minds of successful sports personalities, who discuss their personal mental health struggles in a bid to de-stigmatize the issue, create awareness about the symptoms of mental illness and educate people to take action and seek help, both medical and financial.

Share with us the idea behind using sports personalities to strike conversations on health?

The main idea behind ‘Mind Matters’ was to create mental health awareness through people who are known well for their high fitness levels, both mental and physical, and yet candidly admit to having dealt with mental health issues in the past. We hoped that the story of their struggle and how they overcame it would create awareness and encourage viewers to seek help in case of the need.

By virtue of the nature of their profession, sports celebrities need to be in top form at all times. This often leads to the mistaken impression that physical fitness is all that matters to a successful sports star. Quite contrarily, each of the sports celebrities featured on ‘Mind Matters’ stressed that mental health is as important as physical health. And it was only when they addressed their mental health issues by actively seeking help for them that they were finally able to achieve their true potential on the field. Therefore, who better than sports celebrities to act as role models to bring about awareness on the subject. 

Each of the sports stars featured had a never-heard-before story to share, from football champ Sunil Chhetri, who spoke about how he dealt with social media abuse when he wasn’t able to score in a match; to the big-hitting top-order batsman, Robin Uthappa, who revealed that he battled clinical depression and suicidal thoughts for nearly two years during his career; from international cricket batting genius Cheteshwar Pujara, who credits consulting a sports psychologist with changing his game to Olympic gold medalist and ace shooter Abhinav Bindra, who as a part of the mental health working group for the International Olympic Committee, has made it a mission to create a psychologically safe environment for athletes, to tennis sensation Sania Mirza, who talks about dealing with the pressure of constant social media scrutiny at a young age.

Tell us about the media plan strategy and how banking on digital has helped the brand? While digital as a medium is very cluttered, how does the company manage to break that clutter through its communication?

As a brand that offers health insurance, Future Generali has made mental health a key pivot in its brand story. ‘Mind Matters’ is FGII’s latest endeavor to create awareness of the difficult issue of mental health and normalize its conversation. 

Conceptualized by FGII as a 15-minute five-part video series featuring India’s sports icons, it was executed by our AOR, What’s Your Problem. Anchored by Samir Kochhar, Mind Matters is hosted on YouTube and portrays India’s top athletes in a completely new light and has them opening up about their mental health struggles and triumphs like never before, proving the point that mental fitness is as important as physical fitness, and simultaneously creating mental health awareness as well as brand awareness about FGII’s efforts in this direction.

Our media strategy follows consumer behaviour and this campaign is no different. While Instagram, Facebook and YouTube continue as key mediums, we see shifts in consumption patterns on other media. There is a switch to OTT platforms which have collectively seen an increase in viewership by 3-4 million. News is now consumed digitally, evident in the spike in visits to news sites by more than 40% and the increasing popularity of apps such as In-Shorts. We’ve also picked up a surge in search for health insurance by 23%, making Google even more central to our media planning. We will be present on all these digital platforms in a big way to promote our message. We are also present in high-traffic sports sites to reach out to sports enthusiasts.      

Share insights about the campaign performance and the visibility it was able to achieve?

“Mind Matters” aims to share inspiring stories of India’s most prominent sports stars in an attempt to normalize mental health conversation and nudge the larger audience to take a cue from these sports stars and pay attention to their own mental well-being. 

The sports celebrities touched on complex topics from dealing with depression, anxiety, negativity to social media scrutiny, performance anxiety and pressure. These are issues that everyone deals with to varying degrees in the course of their lives. So, not surprisingly, the audience found each of the five-part weekly series immensely relatable. The five videos, amplified across digital media, have been extremely well-received, with a combined view of over 5 million on YouTube and a total reach of 20 million people in all. The videos were picked up and commented upon by influencers such as Danish Sait, Rahul Subramaniam, celebrities from the sports world such as VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and sportswriters such as Harsha Bhogle, Ayaz Memon, Rahul Rawat and even picked up by platforms like LinkedIn organically. The latest video featuring tennis star Sania Mirza was very well-appreciated and even got several female celebrities talking such as Farah Khan, Anusha Dandekar, Ananya Birla, IAS officer Srushti Deshmukh, among others.

Share with us the brand’s business strategy for 2021 and how the brand is coping up with another lockdown?

Thanks to great foresight and an effective action plan executed at the right time, FGII was able to deal with the impact of the pandemic better than most other organizations. The company’s preparedness and adaptability to the new norm of working entirely on digital technology have stood us in good stead during the current lockdown as well. 

We now know that the pandemic has reshaped consumer preferences, forcing them to focus on health. Not surprisingly, health insurance as a category has been appreciated tremendously, and FGII will continue to focus on health insurance and related products. We are also taking a close look at the specific needs of various demographics to come up with tailor-made, innovative, new products that address current risks. 

Our Future Generali Health Total insurance policy that covers hospitalization and OPD consultation for mental illness, the #HealthInsideOut campaign, and our latest content property ‘Mind Matters’ are all steps in this direction as they help fill the market gaps based on consumer insights. 

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