How Thai Life Insurance is successfully pioneering the use of ‘sadvertising’

In this digital age, the importance of viral videos and trending content has changed the rules of branding: emotive storytelling can be the most effective advertising vehicle

A still from Thai Life Insurance’s commercial, Unsung Hero. The art of emotional advertising is something that has long been embraced at the company
A still from Thai Life Insurance’s commercial, Unsung Hero. The art of emotional advertising is something that has long been embraced at the company  

In today’s world, online advertisements regularly clock up more views than a Hollywood blockbuster. Over the past decade, the work of branding has changed beyond recognition. The digital era has kicked off the rise of the viral video, opening up a brand new path into the hearts and minds of customers.

Advertisements no longer need to be a quick bid to blare out product information, or a loud attention-grabbing pitch to uninterested listeners. Instead, with a combination of the internet, social media and the new possibility of content going viral, brands are able to tell a story that appeals to consumers’ hearts and shapes brand associations. The challenge for companies today is to present their brand image through content that people actively want to watch, share and discuss.

The art of going viral

Emotional marketing is about bringing topics of love and concern to consumers, prompting a strong sentimental response – be it sadness, happiness or anything in between. Crucially, a deep understanding of the consumer and his or her interests must be reflected through the commercial.

Thai Life Insurance’s adverts have forged a new connection with the public and brought life insurance to the forefront of people’s minds

The art of emotional advertising is something that has long been embraced at Thai Life Insurance. Over the course of the past 15 years, our advertisements have reached huge audiences both at home and abroad, and have even been recognised at the Cannes Film Festival. While only a few minutes long, they have frequently been the subject of online challenges daring viewers not to cry. If you were to add up the number of views across all of our videos on YouTube, the total comes to more than 100 million. The reason for this popularity is their ability to resonate with people on an emotional level: millions of people feel that they have gained something from sharing these videos with their friends, family and acquaintances.

Such advertisements are part of an increasingly popular marketing form that has come to be known as ‘sadvertising’. This has taken off as a marketing technique in parallel with the uptick in digital media consumption. Philip Kotler, an advertising expert known as the father of modern marketing, has characterised the digital branding of Thai Life Insurance as a classic case study of the sadvertising phenomenon. In his book Marketing for Competitiveness: Asia to the World in the Age of Digital Consumers, he pinpoints the form as emblematic of the era of unlimited expansion.

The success of these commercials has come with myriad benefits. They have simultaneously forged a new connection with the public, brought life insurance to the forefront of people’s minds, and prompted people to engage with the company’s ethos and culture.

Appealing to the heart

Far from being traditional commercials, our videos have a cinematic feel and focus on bringing the importance of our products to life through storytelling. In just a few minutes, a video can tell a story that gets right to viewers’ hearts. In the case of Thai Life Insurance, we must confront the audience with the importance of life insurance and highlight the fact that life insurance is essential to both our own lives and those of the people we love. The concept behind our entire campaign is the value of life and love – two features that form the core of the life insurance business.

The videos are life-inspired. They motivate people to think of their loved ones, and encourage the audience to appreciate the values of love and concern for both family and society. One commercial, named My Son, focuses on the importance of performing good deeds for our loved ones before it becomes too late. Another film, My Girl, centres on the strength of a parent’s love, even when their children are imperfect. Unsung Hero revolves around a young man who performs selfless deeds without expecting anything in return. The Silence of Love follows the story of a schoolgirl who is bullied because her father is deaf and mute, and ultimately underscores the power of the father’s ‘silent’ love.

The key to the success of our videos is their ability to capture people’s attention with a controversial topic. They take on real issues that exist across society, which ultimately prompts viewers to think deeply and pause to comment. Over the course of just a few minutes, our commercials inspire people to consider the big questions: why are we born? Who do we live for?

Communicating values 

The stories told in our campaigns are designed to contrast other commercials in the space and make Thai Life Insurance stand out. However, their ability to reach people on an emotional level also makes them the perfect vehicle for communicating a message. Crucially, emotional videos do not just sell products; they can also foster a sense of goodwill.

Over the past 15 years, Thai Life Insurance’s stories of love and sacrifice have been watched by millions and inspired people throughout society. By encouraging people to make improvements and change their behaviour, the videos can even be an impetus for social change.

To be an iconic brand, it is important to clearly stand for something and to hold values that can engage and inspire people. In the modern world, consumers seek a company with a conscience: they seek the truth, and appreciate good governance. What’s more, they look for brands that understand the value of others and do not take advantage of their consumers. As such, it is crucial for brands to build up trust and promote values that resonate with their customers.

This is why it is also important that company culture lives up to the values espoused in the campaign. At Thai Life Insurance, social goals are an important part of our business. Indeed, our brand is inspired both by people and for the good of people.

A spiritual organisation

This people-first approach is the makings of what we call a ‘spiritual organisation’: one that seeks to truly understand the consumer. This helps us ensure that the principles people see in the public-facing videos are reflected in the way we work.

At the heart of this concept is a culture of generosity and trustworthiness. This mentality runs in the Thai Life DNA, from the employees in headquarters to those working in the branches or sales teams. Our sales agents, life insurance personnel and life insurers must always go above and beyond to support Thai society; it is these values that will make consumers love, trust and ultimately bond with the brand.

We work to actively run the business in a style that prioritises human value beyond business value. This comes from the full cooperation of everyone in the organisation, who are each driven by a shared purpose. On top of having the requisite skills, knowledge and abilities, Thai Life Insurance’s employees must also be caring, generous, compassionate, trusting and sharing. What’s more, they must hold strong morals and ethics, and never leave anyone behind.

Like the protagonist in Unsung Hero, we encourage all staff to be understanding and provide each other with sincere support. For instance, all headquarters and branch staff must also be responsible for sales support by giving all employees the opportunity to learn how the agents work.

This focus on human value over profits is a major factor that contributes to continuous growth at Thai Life Insurance, and will be an important part of what drives the company to be sustainable in the future. Essentially, we believe that when society is strong, Thai Life Insurance will be strong as well. The company not only aims to maximise profit and market share, but also to give some of this profit back to society. The value of Thai Life Insurance is not reflected in the form of the highest profit or market share, but in the mind set of its employees and the strength of its brand. This will provide the momentum for sustainable profit and growth in the future.

Ultimately, through the combination of an ethical company culture and inspiring videos, Thai Life Insurance is able to pursue our goal of being an iconic brand that inspires all Thai citizens. It is this brand image and company culture that together forms the secret to sustainable growth. We believe that Thai Life Insurance will continue to exhibit sustainable growth up until its 100th anniversary, and far beyond.