The Want Business – Part 1

“Technology advances, but humans don’t. We’re smart monkeys and what we want is always the same: food, shelter, sex and in all its forms – escape” –

Takeshi Kovacs, Altered Carbon


You don’t have to wake up after 250 years like Takeshi Kovacs did to realize that the things we want and need never change. Before we get into details, let’s understand the definition of need and want according to Webster’s dictionary: need is a “physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism.” Want is a desire. Basically, a need is something we must have to survive and a want is something we desire but isn’t necessary for survival. Lucky for you, this post isn’t about survival; instead, I’d like to talk about how needs and desires impact insurance agents .

One of the oldest forms of communication was smoke; it was used to transmit news, signal danger, and gather people. Then came letters, phones, fax machines, emails, text messages and now, social networks. So, while our need to communicate hasn’t changed, the form has. In 1997 a company called Netflix came into this world and by early 2014, Blockbuster shut down all remaining stores. Our desire to watch movies hasn’t changed, the form has. As technology advances, the things we need and want remain the same; it’s only the form that changes.


It started changing in 1995

“In 1995, when the Internet was just gaining popularity, Progressive stepped ahead of the competition and became the first major auto insurer in the world to launch a Web site. The site was primarily informational, but it soon became more interactive. By 1996, consumers could obtain comparison rates online, and by 1997, they could buy auto insurance policies online in real time” – Progressive.


In late 2003, GEICO added a “buy auto insurance” tab to their website:


And in 2004, GEICO introduced the following commercial:


As you all know, GEICO works with The Martin Agency (since 1994). Back then, their job was to introduce a little-known company with an odd name to a national audience. The ad agency started by promoting GEICO’s then unusual D2C business model. Then came the Caveman commercial, which intended to drive traffic to and promote the ease of ordering from GEICO; “So easy a cave man could do it.” This commercial introduced a new way to buy insurance, which made the independent agent-driven model seem old.


When the need is gone

One can argue whether insurance is a need or a desire. However, there’s no doubt that before the internet, people who needed or wanted insurance, needed to deal with agents. But some needs change, and those who rely on them are affected. Before Netflix, we needed to go to a store to rent movies. Before navigation systems, we needed a map for directions. And then GEICO came along with many others who offered an alternative for the need to deal with agents. It took Netflix almost 17 years to officially eliminate the offerings of the company that was recognized for the old way. Insurance isn’t like renting movies and the process will take longer. But, the need to deal with an insurance agent, in most cases, will fade away .


Be in the want business

At Coverager, we like to be practical. We won’t tell you to follow a trend just because most do. When many talk about customer experience, we talk about how the advertising landscape affects all companies – good and bad. When most tell you to partner with insurtechs, we tell you to look beyond insurance. That being said, here’s what I have to say to insurance agents: the form is changing and there’s no stopping it. Right now, the insurance industry feels like the wild wild west; there are many factors at play and that’s a problem for an industry that looks and sounds the same for the average consumer. One thing’s for sure – you want to be wanted, not needed. A company like Apple fulfills our need to communicate, but that doesn’t mean we need a new iPhone every year. There’s something about Apple that makes people want their products. The million-dollar question is how to be wanted in an industry like insurance…