PIMA ‘Affinity 2030’ Spotlight: Dan Doherty, Aon Affinity



One of the greatest threats to any brand or category is the loss of relevance. Any number of forces can impede future growth, but it’s possible to clear these hurdles. The one strategy guaranteed to fail? A silent retreat into irrelevance. That is the driving force behind PIMA’s latest research, “Affinity 2030: Exploring Our Blind Spots for a Brighter Future.”

Companies have long used the affinity insurance model to drive steady growth. For the model to evolve, however, we must be vigilant in looking at our own relevance. To provide more insight into the affinity insurance market, we reached out to one of the “Affinity 2030” contributors: Dan Doherty, chief marketing officer at Aon Affinity.


Screen_Shot_2020-03-11_at_1_04_57_PM.pngAbout Dan Doherty

Dan Doherty is the chief marketing officer at Aon Affinity, a global leader in the affinity insurance market. A career marketer, his experience spans from P&C and life insurance to banking and packaged goods. Doherty had a few distinct experiences that pushed him to where he is today professionally.

At the start of his career, Doherty held a brand management role with traditional packaged goods company Del Monte. That experience gave him a solid understanding of marketing as a science and a business driver. His second influential experience stemmed from his work in financial services marketing at Citibank. Doherty was part of a group of marketers tasked with transforming the financial services approach to consumer marketing, which revolutionized the banking industry.

The third experience came during marketing’s digital transformation. Digitization has created an opportunity for consumers to demand more, and marketers have evolved accordingly. Doherty has seen firsthand how companies can use data and analytics to provide consumers with what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. He now sees marketing’s role as selling what people demand rather than just what the company offers.

At Aon Affinity, Doherty uses these experiences to practice affinity insurance marketing through B2B, B2C, and B2B2B channels. He believes the key to success for any company is listening to customers to determine what they need — and then leveraging data to fulfill those needs.


An Assessment of Today’s Affinity Insurance Market

According to Doherty, a significant advantage of the new affinity insurance marketing model is the focus on digital that allows companies to get immediate responses from customers. Marketers no longer need to rely on printing and mailing to get valuable information and feedback. Digital tactics — when they’re based on individualization that leverages user experience and user interface — allow companies to customize offers through each step of the customer journey.

The key is to test products and processes to ensure your company cuts through the noise. Historically, affinity insurance products have been a great way to do this because they can be modified to fulfill specific needs. In the current environment, however, the focus should be on innovating with digital means to solve specific problems. The digital world offers incredible benefits to affinity insurance services, for example, but it also presents a new set of risks. Examining cyberthreats and creating solutions to overcome them is a great way to prepare.

That is just one example, though. In the affinity insurance market, you have to innovate in every aspect of the business. Many affinity organizations are marketing firms that work with carriers to underwrite the risk. Because of this, it’s essential to figure out how to use data and analytics to learn new, innovative marketing techniques that will offer better solutions to customers — and help your business stay relevant.


The Customer’s Evolving Needs

Doherty believes the biggest challenge of affinity insurance channels is creating benefits that align with members’ needs. People and businesses that get their affinity insurance services from professional organizations want to see that those organizations understand their wants and needs. They don’t want businesses to throw products or services at them and hope something sticks.

As companies add more and more affinity insurance products that are further from the core of their missions, the competition will only grow. According to Doherty, companies that offer loyalty programs with powerful CRMs are a major threat to the affinity insurance market; the products that insurers sell to members of affinity organizations are now available online with the click of a button. However, Doherty says this could be an advantage and opportunity for the affinity space rather than just a threat.

Affinity organizations offer a level of customization and personalization based on their members, yet they need to go deeper. Doherty’s solution is to use external data to get an all-encompassing view of your membership. This proves helpful as you target — and retarget — members based on how they interact with the organization. One way to do this is to add loyalty programs (supported by websites with retargeting efforts), which can personalize offers and customize them in real-time.

Published on March 11, 2020.

(Professional Insurance Marketing Association®) is a member-driven trade association focused exclusively on the group-sponsored benefits market.

The research from “Affinity 2030: Exploring Our Blind Spots for a Brighter Future” is available for no cost to PIMA members. For more information on becoming a member, click here.