With over 30 years of experience leading multi-functional teams to deliver profit and market share growth, George Thacker has been a pioneer in creating quality, branded, and efficient customer acquisition and retention experiences. George knows the insurance industry inside and out. He joined the Exclamation Labs’ leadership team in June 2017.
Q: Why did you decide to join the team at Exclamation Labs?
A: I’ve worked with Exclamation Labs for almost 10 years, and come to admire the special nature of the company. Frankly, it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what makes 'eLabs' special, but I think it is a combination of several unusual influences. First, I believe the decision to locate in Cumberland, MD has something to do with it. For centuries, that community has highly valued extraordinary craftsmanship. It’s difficult today, especially in the digital world, for the naked eye to spot superior workmanship. In the olden days, a trained eye could admire a beautifully crafted cabinet or astonishingly brilliant glassworks. But how do you look at a web-based process that delivers an excellent consumer experience and notice its superior craftsmanship? I certainly can’t. But I can notice, and even measure, the consumer’s receptivity to an exceptional experience, and that’s how my respect for eLabs took roots.
On every project that Exclamation Labs performed for me as Chief Marketing Officer of Gerber Life, that obsession with craftsmanship showed up in their work. Of course, the founder of every successful company leaves their imprint on the firm. Exclamation Labs clearly shows the influence of its Founder/President, Jonathan Hutcherson. The guy is a ‘tinkerer’ by nature. Some folks manage by throwing hand grenades, but the opposite is true for how Jonathan approaches things. He has a keen eye for detail. If you watch him approach any problem, he tries to completely open up the issue to understand the inner workings. Then, he methodically begins to carefully examine the pieces inside the process or problem. It’s like watching an 18th Century clockmaker. And that’s how the eLabs team operates. Oh yeah, Jonathan is also a ‘Pied Piper’ for talent. He does not rush into the hiring process. When he brings someone on board, they’re almost always exceptional – and they share his unique values.
Q: You have spent a lot of your career in the insurance industry. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in the insurance world.
A: After completing my ROTC 4-year obligation to the Army Corps of Engineers, I started my marketing career in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble. After 15 years in Packaged Goods, I was ready for a change and made a switch to Financial Services. The switch worked like a charm. I started off with mutual fund & annuity marketing at Citibank, and then shifted to auto & home insurance with The Hartford’s AARP Program. I ended up in the insurance world for a couple of reasons. First, the P&G disciplines of marketing applied well to the struggles then facing the AARP Insurance Program – performance metrics per policy and data-driven consumer communications. Secondly, continuous consumer research into product and media innovations suited me well. I made a final move to life insurance because I wanted the challenge of leading the consumer experience, not just in marketing but also in sales and service. Great fun.
Q: How will recent trends in consumer behavior influence insurance marketers? Are we likely to see an impact on how business is conducted?
A: If you weren’t born into the world of life insurance, you quickly learn two key phrases of insurance jargon: ‘adverse selection’ and ‘life policies are SOLD, not bought’. Adverse selection means the people you don’t want to insure will find you and gain coverage. The second phrase implies the consumer doesn’t sufficiently understand the product to ultimately buy it; therefore you must sell them. Both of these core insurance concepts are turned upside-down with the advent of new consumer behaviors. For instance, consumers who are screened out or declined to avoid adverse selection are becoming increasingly vocal via social media, forcing carriers to change. Additionally, millennials are very suspect of being ‘sold’, and often search out ratings and comments on the web before buying. Not surprisingly, fewer traditional life insurance policies are being sold today than in past decades.
Q: You hear a lot of buzz about consumer data and analytics that are currently available to marketers. How well do you think life insurance companies are progressing in this area?
A: Insurance companies are typically data rich, but do not always have the expertise and tools necessary to gain the critical insights. My observation is that typically the three biggest gaps in life insurance data and analytics capabilities are all structural in nature. Information is stored on a risk basis, therefore it is difficult to analyze for individual consumers. There is also limited integration of third-party data, and limited capability to store and analyze prospect data.