Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Insurance can be a tough sell. People don’t like to think about it, though when pressed, most admit they need some for a few different reasons. Consumers’ reluctance to think about insurance as a product is one of the reasons the insurance industry has invested so heavily in advertising. In fact, in the past year alone, the insurance industry invested more than $7 billion in ad buys for their products.

Another reason for this industry-wide significant investment is the stiff competition. When an insurance brand doesn’t have anything but its name to use to differentiate itself from the competition in the market, it all comes down to price … and that’s a recipe for a race to the bottom. The real goal is to get people to stay and not to switch. Because, with insurance, the longer you keep the customer, the more the company makes.

Which, of course, means getting people to switch is high priority in advertising. So, companies do a lot to get attention on their “switch to us” message. Most of us can quote several different insurance catch phrases, even if we have never—and never will—buy their products. We can also picture several different mascots or spokespeople … you may even be hearing their voices in your head right now.

But there might never have been a more “in the moment / meet people where they are” idea related to insurance than the one Emirates Airlines recently announced: COVID-19 insurance. With companies trying all kinds of gimmicks and plans to get customers to choose them over a competing airline, Emirates has borrowed a tactic from the extremely competitive insurance industry: disrupt the established narrative by causing potential customers to go, “Wait … what??”

According to media reports, Emirates COVID insurance stipulates that, should a passenger be diagnosed with COVID-19 during their travels, the airline will cover their associated medical expenses, up to about $176,000 USD, as well as $118 per day for quarantine costs for up to two weeks. But that’s not all. If a customer dies, Emirates will pay up to $1,765 for that passenger’s funeral expenses. The insurance is automatically applied, coverage effective immediately, when tickets are purchased. And, better yet, there are no up-front specific fees for customers.

Market watchers are hailing it as one of the most brilliant consumer PR moves for any international brand since the beginning of the global pandemic. This company has used a product that everyone is familiar with, combined it with their product, which is struggling, packaged it using language that people are definitely paying attention to, and communicated the offer in a way that grabs everyone’s focus and attention. After all, how many other big, international brands out there are leading with “fly with us and we will pay for your funeral.”

Once consumers get past the somewhat morbid shock, they’re definitely going to be intrigued. And, from a social media PR standpoint, this is definitely a sticky concept. Huge numbers of people are definitely going to be sharing this with their friends.

Fringe benefits include the obvious fact that nobody is going to complain if they don’t get to collect, and this message allows Emirates to address the elephant in their room—consumers’ reluctance to travel—in a way that’s indirect but unique and definitely attention-grabbing.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.