I’ve been working on my branding problem in my spare time. It’s been a daunting project. What’s on your front page? If you were to tell your story, where would you begin? Would you start at the end, the beginning or somewhere in the middle? What theme would you highlight? What would you want the world to know?
It’s easier for some than others. My latest card involved a simple change of phone number from the previous one. I’ve also changed my email address. But those aren’t branding issues. It’s the images and logos. There is a story behind each one of them. Most people would opt for simplicity. Why did I put a hat on that dolphin? Why two that aren’t the same? What are these other symbols?
The cardinal rule in marketing and advertising is “less is more.” I’m going to advertiser hell for this business card. I know it. But it gets worse. Here’s the back…
Yeah, that’s right. So unprofessional. Why?
Marketing Organizations vs Products
As an independent insurance broker, I can contract and produce insurance products for all sorts of companies. I’m in charge of choosing what I can recommend and I really like that. I contract with more than most independent brokers because I’m about people more than I’m about commissions. People have a variety of needs and qualifications. But I have a problem. I do want to bring attention to the companies I work with and to the insurance products I offer, but I need a single message – a simple idea. So what single message do I want to bring recognition to? Here’s my challenge …
I’ll start with marketing organizations. A field insurance marketing organization provides a nice plug and play system. The hard work of contracting is made easy.
I started my insurance career with one of the largest life insurance marketing organizations in the country – Family First Life.
FFL works with dozens of life insurance carriers, offering hundreds of life insurance products. Some of the names are already well recognized – names like Mutual of Omaha, Gerber, John Hancock, Aflac and Corebridge. Others are lesser known but quite good.
Then came Benzy. I had wanted to offer health insurance from the start. As an Independent Marketing Organization, Benzy offers two types of products – (1)Health Matching Accounts (HMAs) and (2)private health insurance plans. The insurance plans are with Allstate and Manhattan Life.
Let me offer a quick overview of the types of health insurance products this world has and where Benzy fits in. Health insurance products fall into a number of buckets. There are those that focus on the senior citizens and the Medicare/Medicaid market. And there are those who don’t. With the exception of the HMA, Benzy is for those who don’t. This latter bucket is then itself divided into two general categories – those who need comprehensive insurance to cover preconditions, and those who don’t. Again, with the exception fo the HMA, Benzy’s current line up of products through Allstate and Manhattan Life is for those who don’t. Then finally, there are those who can afford ACA plans (Obamacare) and those who can’t or are unwilling. Benzy products are for those who’d like to pay less money than they would with the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM), which is how the Affordable Care Act (ACA – AKA Obamacare), attempts to make health insurance affordable for everyone. Benzy products don’t offer Obamacare. They offer more affordable alternatives. If government cost sharing and tax credits are needed, I provide that through Kellogg.
My goal was to offer every bucket. What Benzy didn’t do as a marketing organization, Kellog did do. If someone needs Obamacare, I can offer a variety of ACA Federally Facilitated Marketplace products. And if a person has, or needs to get onto Medicare, I have numerous carriers and products for that thanks to Kellogg. There are all sorts of things these organizations do for me in terms of back office support, lead generation, training and marketing so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
All that said, I can contract directly with carriers, as well. Tallahassee is one example. It’s my goal to represent all the best plans here in my local market. It’s a changing target that required a lot of training and certification so it’s no easy task, but to provide solutions no matter what the needs of my client are, it’s all part of what I do. I don’t want to be a salesman. I want to be a consultant. My job, is to simplify the complex by knowing how to explore options quickly and distill information into what matters most to my clients.
On this current iteration of my business card, I’ve chosen to add the logos of these three major marketing organizations. Without them, I would never have been able to start my business. Later, I’d like to train and organize an agency of my own. If you are interested in the insurance business, or know someone looking for a great career, I’m happy to mentor new agents. In a later, more simplified version, I’ll remove the IMO logos from my front page and business card. You only want one image. Right? Well … that leaves me with my dolphins. Ultimately, what I’m marketing is James Carvin Insurance. I want you to see my brand, not theirs. But to know my brand is to know my story. Would you like to know about me?
I’ve got a lot of content on the web. I started telling stories about my family after my father passed in 1995. I was working on my Masters degree and serving as an adjunct professor at a seminary at that time. There were group chats and forums avaialable on Compuserve back then. I was heavily engaged. Then later, I put up a lot of theological content on a group called CARM, as well. I also had a MySpace page and about a dozen others, all before Facebook existed. I owned and put up content on about forty domains to theme out my various interests. On Facebook, I manage dozens of groups and pages.
Despite all that, I never made the connections I wanted. One web site I built had over a hundred million page views in a three-month span but, as with several other businesses I hoped to get up and running, I was never able to raise funds. Ultimately, I had to set the whole enterprise to the side for another day and reinvent myself.
I got another degree. This one was in Interdisciplinary Studies at ASU. I busted through it easily in my part time with a 4.0 while I drove for Uber and Lyft. Uber paid for my degree. I thought better credentials might be useful and it only took a few years, so why not? IDS degrees are for those who want double majors. My concentrations were in philosophy and organizational leadership. My goal was to start a philosophical society. I call it the Pamalogy Society. Pamalogy is the philosophy of awesomeness – Awesomeology. It was a great idea, but back to the same old problem – I’m not a fund raiser at heart. I’m an inventor. So I haven’t yet gotten my philosophical society off the ground.
Meantime, I have bills to pay. What I needed was a business I didn’t invent from scratch. The insurance business solved that problem for me. Multi-billion dollar insurance companies needed knowledgeable people to offer their knowledge and expertise. I could do that. Why not just be an awesome insurance consultant? I can make a difference in people’s lives. That matters. And there were very few start up costs. But about that branding …
Can Dolphins Wear Top Hats?
I got baptized with my top hat on.
The top hat with sprocket is the Pamalogy Society logo. Top hats symbolize excellence. Sprockets symbolize innovation. Surely we are endowed with great imaginations and can invent new forms of excellence. Isn’t that what awesomeness is? When I put on my top hat, I recognize my call to excellence and innovation. Don’t think in problems. Think in solutions. Let me find you your solution! Are you paying too much for health care? Have you built a financial and digital legacy for your family? Did you fall in love with a charity you wanted to help?
I should be clear about this top hat deal. What’s the top hat about? Innovation? Excellence? Baptism?
Top hats tend to be symbols of success. But a Pamalogy Society top hat is not a declaration of success. It is a declaration of calling. It is a challenge. It is a reminder.
That’s why I got baptized wearing my top hat. Baptism is not a declaration of success. It is a declaration of a new identity. Baptism goes beyond reinvention and human creativity. It applies hope and faith to something that it envisions and calls upon. Baptism knows what it sees in part but it doesn’t pretend to grasp it entirely just yet. Its calling may be unknowable, in fact, yet faith and hope may be part of a baptism sufficiently to know and trust that whatever is to come is good and that we are entering into it.
That’s how baptism works. Its power and declaration are incomprehensible in this world. Eye has not seen nor has ear heard it.
Did that sound deep? As a philosopher, I ask big questions. One of them is what maximized awesomeness is. A theist will say God is maximized awesomeness. I agree. Maximized Awesomeness is exactly what God is. Perfection. You can’t get any better than that.
But when discussing philosophy, I aim for precision. I can’t be precise if the term “God” doesn’t mean the same thing for every person. It doesn’t.
Neither does the phrase, “maximized awesomeness” mean the same thing to everyone. Thank God for that. Now if I talk about mazimized awesomeness, for the sake of precision, I can consider each possible domain. How I can mazimize my awsomeness is one thing. How the world could maximize its awesomeness is another. Then there is what the best truth conceivable is – that is yet another thing. When we think about God, many of us think of that thing.
Maximized Awesomeness in that sense is that than which there could be nothing greater – a very specific description of God. That would be Perfection. But not everyone sees God as perfect. I wind up in discussions about why there is evil in creation. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about here. Here, I’m going to talk about dolphins.
Dolphins fall into the “this world” category of awesomeness.
Why do I like dolphins so much? Well … they are usually very friendly with us. They aren’t always friendly though. Some of them injure other animals. In fact, all of them do because they eat fish. Fish are animals. Manatees are much nicer.
Some people say animals don’t go to heaven. I don’t think that is true. I think the fundamental difference between humans and other animals is that we are more capable of intentionally knowing good from evil and seeking to change our behavior in order to seek the good and repent. We reject our own habits deliberately, purely for the sake of good.
I wouldn’t say animals can’t or never do consciously change their moral behavior. I’ve seen animals mourn. I’ve seen them groan with compassion. I’ve heard stories about them rescuing people. I’ve seen shame on dog’s faces. Who trained them to do that? Animals of many species often surprise us with kind and selfless acts. So why dolphins? It’s not their built in smile. That’s delightful but my dog gives me unconditional love too. Even my hamsters and guinea pigs loved me.
You know what it is? It’s their blow hole. Like a person being baptized, they go under the water and come back up so they can keep on living. Whales and other sea mammals do the same, I know, but dolphins, being roughly the same size as humans, and having a brain size to body mass ratio that is even bigger than humans, symbolize baptism for me. We definitely have to wash that intelligent brain free of stinking thinking and dolphin brains are bigger than human brains. Seals are sea dogs – so cute and pretty smart too. But they don’t have special blow holes declaring to the world their need to breathe and be born again. Seals, otters and penguins, manatees – I know. They’re all cute. They’re all amazing. But dolphins …
Dolphins are my personal brand. I won’t ramble. Do you want to know about the seven stars? Maybe another time. Suffice it to say there is a reason the dolphin with seven stars is the brand I chose. Putting a top hat on it was a very personal thing for me. The seven stars may stay but the hat is not going to be part of my long term insurance company brand. It belongs to my philosophical society brand. If you are interested in my philosophical concepts, let’s talk about them. As for my insurance brand – I will simplify. Give it some time.
What’s on your front page?