Joseph Kumar Gross
Global Head of Group Market Management
In this “age of responsibility” how do you see your customer changing?
Trust remains the most important value. Earning trust is critical to success, and you can never simply declare, “trust me.” There is still a high level of distrust and cynicism and lack of differentiation within the larger financial services industry. The financial crisis changed – and is still changing – what trust means in relation to customer needs.
Our research shows several trends. First, self-empowerment: that customers recognize that they must take their destiny more into their own hands and cannot rely solely on institutions or advisors. Next, we’ve noticed that customers are seeking sustainable, reliable partnerships versus the previous "maximum return, maximum margin" attitude. Third, customers require transparency and openness – the age of the "trust me black box" is over. All of these behaviors are accelerated and enabled through the web. We’re seeing a significant increase in information-seeking prior to purchase or even repurchase; peer groups are now ranging from aggregator websites to friends on social media; and word of mouth’s importance and the relevant set of influencers is massively increasing.
How do you see the marketing of brands changing in the next five to 10 years?
More and more, the brand promise will need to be delivered through the whole organization to provide a consistent customer experience and create and sustain a meaningful brand. Communication and messaging will be a secondary aspect of this – in other words, it will be the "visitenkarte," not the driver. Micro-messaging will be further adapted to segments and fragmented media channels, and it will be important that this messaging has an inherent digital affinity. With more channels, it will be a challenge for brands not to dilute their core messages. Finally, a brand’s credibility, and how it communicates, will be more important than "star appeal;” which is to say that real life (being relevant, meaningful, and credible) is a critical trait for successful brands.
What was the most unpredicted factor that affected how you manage your brand in the past decade. In the past year?
The financial crisis was the most unpredictable factor. It came as a shock wave across the industry, but taught customers and other stakeholders to take a look behind the surface. All of a sudden people started to look for substance. They wanted to understand business models rather than trusting so-called advisors. For companies like ours, with sound ethics and values and a rather solid, easy to understand business model, this was a clear advantage and opportunity.
How does your brand influence the decisions made at your organization?
Our company is very much driven by a set of common values. Since the role of brand is to provide orientation, identification and trust, both internally and externally, our brand promise to be a trusted partner and our values to commitment, competence and competitiveness profoundly influence our corporate behavior, and ultimately our decisions.
How have you adapted to the impact of technology and social media?
Social media and digital innovations require a totally different approach to customers such that you must truly make customer relationship management and customer experience the cornerstone of organizational delivery. Digital is a huge opportunity for our industry and Allianz to enhance customer communication, engagement and increase our relevance, but it is equally a challenge to deliver outstanding performance time after time, because of the speed and reach of communication should a customer issue arise. Allianz continues to focus on our customers and work rigorously to adapt our brand delivery to include digital access for our clients. We are also adapting our brand strategy and channels to continue to be a top rated and relevant global brand.
How much of a role does corporate citizenship play in managing your brand?
Corporate citizenship plays an essential role in our brand management. The Allianz Arena and Munich’s amazing football provide us with tremendous visibility. The arena was built on the strong commitment of Allianz and it is seen as the first tangible “home” for our brand. Also, many of our 450,000 agents and more than 150,000 of our employees play an integral role in their local communities, through their engagement with charities, schools and sports clubs.
Joseph Kumar Gross is the Global Head of Group Market Management at Allianz SE. This position combines global brand management with market management of the competence center that supports the national companies in targeting the respective needs of the market and customers.
Gross has been with Allianz since 2002, and his responsibilities have included the area of strategic brand management at Allianz SE.
He began his career in 1991 as a brand manager with Procter & Gamble. Subsequently he became marketing manager for Procter & Gamble London and assumed the position of marketing director for Personal Health Care Europe in 2000.
Joseph Kumar Gross studied business administration in Frankfurt and Berkeley.