Liberty Mutual is driving their brand strategy forward by merging marketing with safe driving and gamification through the HighwayHero app, a free experience that allows consumers to earn discounts—and bragging rights—by unlocking badges such as “safest driver.”

One thing is clear from the get go, however—you’re never supposed to actually use the app when operating a vehicle.

The century-year-old brand is identifying new ways to leverage technology to add additional value for customers. HighwayHero is a telematics-based app that allows the Boston-based brand to cater with personally tailored advice, information and even policies.

According to Accenture Strategy, 80 percent of insurance consumers are looking for personalized offers, messages, pricing and recommendations from their auto, home or life insurance providers.

Some of the other avenues of personalization that Liberty Mutual has been working on this year include an Open Developer Portal that combines public data with insurance knowledge, helping to inform future apps and products. They also expanded in the telematics category with customized safe driving programs with a “pay as you drive” insurance called ByMile. Also getting the gamification treatment is RightTrack, their customer discount program that compares driving behaviors.

Nicholas Grant, senior director at Liberty Mutual, joined AListDaily, to explain how they plan on fostering positive relationships with consumers through new experiences.

Nicholas Grant, senior director at Liberty Mutual
Nicholas Grant, senior director at Liberty Mutual

Why is a gamified experience now a part of Liberty Mutual’s business strategy?

We want to demonstrate our suite of safe driving discount programs and the technologies that power them. The HighwayHero app has an element of gamification that gives customers discounts based on how well they drive based on a 14-day trial period. What we measure is things like hard braking, hard acceleration, late-night driving, as well as mileage. Then we wrap that up into a score and a customer has a chance to save up to 25 percent.

What have you learned? How are you driving conversion?

What we found is that it’s more of a test drive program that allows customers who are not yet with us to see if they like it. During the program, we’ve learned from our vast experience in driving-based programs. We amped up the gamification to allow information that is able to be collected from smart phones to provide customers coaching, driver feedback and overall, how to be a better driver. One of the other elements we’ve understood for potential customers, versus customers who come in the door, is having amped up, gamified and engaging experiences. That’s important. So what we’ve done is taken a lot of inspiration from mobile gaming apps to make it more compelling, like achievements and unlocking badges. We built in things like leaderboards, where you can compare yourself to people in your city and state; you can invite friends and compete with them, too. Ultimately we want to create an experience where there’s a little bit of competition, and a little bit of drive to be a better, safer driver, and as a result, you might earn a better discount off your insurance.

How are you going to be marketing this?

This particular app is an opportunity for us to gain new customers by providing a fun experience and value proposition by saving money on your car insurance. The million-dollar discussion now is “how do you expand the reach?” We started with 16 states and are adding more states as we go by the end of the year. A few different things that we looked at doing is standard active marketing to boost the awareness of the program so that more and more customers participate. But how do you show the fun of the app? We want to encourage a vast group of customers to participate at the same time and earn prizes and benefits along the way. What we ultimately want to do is make customers happy, and make them better drivers.

What’s the best kind of marketing that works best for insurance customers?

Insurance companies are very active in the TV advertising space. Everyone is saying “switch and save with us.” You see a lot of commercials out there with well-known brands. The way that we think we’re differentiated in this way is that not only can you switch your insurance to Liberty Mutual and save, now you can save more with a gamified discount-based experience that rewards you for safe driving. The customer takes control of their own premium, and that’s not something our competitors are doing. It’s something different. It’s not the standard “call us up and get a discount.” Hopefully it breaks through and excites customers in a way that is not currently happening today.

How are you going to be leveraging the data that you collect?

One of the things we’ve learned is that if you can help a customer save more, that’s a winning formula. We’re using data in actionable ways. We’re also incorporating our learnings by building in things like emoticons in our core apps. . . . People only want to pay for things that they are going to use. Technology is changing the way we do business. We use information about driving through a bunch of different technologies—like mobile phones and Bluetooth—directly from the vehicle. It allows us to provide new value propositions for the customer and create entirely new products. Our industry is being disrupted by technology. Our goal is to be at the forefront of technology and stay on the cutting edge of product offerings, so that we’re the ones providing the value and fun experiences before others do. That way consumers stay with us.

What platforms do you plan on experimenting with to further drive your message along?

Connected car and connected home are big areas of focus for us so that we can differentiate ourselves for consumers. When we’re able to use technology to provide incremental value to customers, whether you have safety sensors in your home, or information coming from connected vehicles, tailoring our products, and providing new ones to understand those pieces is going to be critical.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan