Cooking up a new brand

A leadership series by Stacey Silipo

I love food. I appreciate a dish that is well thought-out and surprising. I own way too many recipe books, and have even cooked my way through some of them. I enjoy traveling, researching the food scene and trying local places. I’ve watched every episode of Top Chef. And most of all, I love gathering around the table with friends and family and sharing food and conversation.

So it probably comes as no surprise how I recently described to a friend my job of creating the brand for startup Berkley One. “It’s like developing a meal from scratch with no recipe to follow.”  In other words, start with a few ingredients that are on the table and create something that helps to define you, forms the basis of your menu and brings people together.

When I started at Berkley One a year and a half ago, after working at another insurance company for 23 years, the recipe card was nearly blank. We had a name and we were part of Berkley, a company that had a cookbook of success.  The rest was for us to create. So we rolled up our sleeves, got started and learned a few lessons along the way.


Do the prep work


Like anything we do at Berkley One, we created our brand by listening. We interviewed employees, agents and prospective clients, asking them about brands both in insurance and beyond that they loved and why. We learned about what they wanted to see in a new personal insurance provider. And, we analyzed the personalities of brands in a variety of industries. From all of this research, we developed some distinct and authentic brand concepts for Berkley One. Then we went back to the groups we listened to initially and tested those concepts. This idea of testing brand concepts was so important. It caused us to define what we do in different terms and led us to our brand framework, which is based on the idea of helping our clients to move forward to their next adventure.

Adventure. Throughout our branding work, that word kept coming up. It resonates because everyone has their own adventure. It’s personal. It could be traveling, gardening, collecting, sailing, reading, hiking, cooking or spending time with family. Adventure, however it is defined, is something that we are all pursuing. And Berkley One helps individuals and families keep moving forward in these pursuits. Too often personal insurance is presented as a product that protects things: homes, cars, and art. We were excited to shift the conversation to one about helping people move forward to their next adventure.


Give everyone the recipe


There are times when you can have too many cooks in the kitchen, but not when you are launching a new brand. Berkley One is a startup with strong connections among the team and the attitude that everyone shares in creating our success. So, we give our brand roadmap, the Berkley One Brand Book, to every member of the Berkley One team. And we encourage them to know the guide and find ways to own and live the brand, every day and in every interaction. We did this when we first launched the brand and we still do this now, even as our team has grown.

The Brand Book is a powerful tool. It’s a recipe book for our brand including our value proposition, verbal and visual language, and messaging framework. By giving everyone the Brand Book, we’ve made everyone one a brand ambassador and augmented our brand ownership and reach. And we’ve found that our people are full of ideas on how to live and share the brand.


Change the menu


Once we created our Brand Book, we then needed to develop our marketing materials, digital properties and communications. My accomplished marketing team members and I were ready for this. We knew how to create brochures, sell sheets, website content and other communications. But rather than follow a familiar recipe for creating our marketing mix, we stepped into the listening lab again and learned about what agents, clients and employees needed in terms of information. Here’s what we heard: fewer brochures and more digital sell sheets, more blog and social media content that could be shared, an agency portal designed with and for agents and a website that delivers information and expertise, not just product information.

With clear guidance on what to build, we started to create our marketing communications. We developed a content and social media strategy and launched our blog and social media properties. For a year now, we’ve been telling stories about customer trends, the Company We Keep, TrueRiskSM and leadership—so we can help our clients and agents keep moving forward. Our brand is the root of everything in our marketing mix. Our website, agency portal, email communications, marketing material, business documents, intranet site, advertising and campaigns all reflect our brand and our brand promise. We aren’t afraid to change the menu of what we deliver (in fact, we hold regular feedback sessions with our team for new ideas), but the secret sauce that is our brand is part of everything we say and do.

What I enjoy about cooking is what we have embraced in building the Berkley One brand. We’ve created our own signature meal, from scratch, and it is authentically ours. And the idea that food brings people together? That’s what I hope the Berkley One brand does too—connects agents and clients and business partners and Berkley One team members. There’s plenty of room at the table for us all to move forward together.

Stacey Silipo is Vice President, Marketing & Branding at Berkley One (A Berkley Company).