If you had to find a word to describe a good Insurance Broker, it might be personable, or dependable, but it’s probably not creative or innovative. This stereotype, however, was tested at the recently held ‘Broker Marketing Academy’ at the Elmhurst Inn in Ingersoll, Ontario, sponsored by CAA Insurance. This year marked the second in-person event, the first having taken place in 2019 just before… well, you know. This was my second time facilitating brand and creative discussions. I’m writing about it now because the 2023 experience confirmed that 2019’s success wasn’t a one-hit-wonder.
The Broker Academy aims to equip Insurance Brokerages with the tools to understand and build their brand, craft, and manage their own marketing strategies, and design and execute creative campaigns.
Insurance Brokerages can apply for the week-long experience through CAA’s online robust application process. From the applicants, twenty individuals are selected, representing a range of job functions from business owners, accountants, marketing specialists, to even a few with design backgrounds.
The event, which takes CAA Insurance six months to design and plan, needs to be meaningful for everyone involved. After all, nobody just hands out an all-expense-paid week at a nice resort. The brokers get skills, which aids both them and CAA Insurance. So, the selection process is understandably rigorous. The chosen 20 are divided into four teams and tasked with creating brand strategies and complete marketing campaigns for fictional brokerages, using high-level foundational parameters as a springboard. The process is guided but allows room for some healthy failure. When you use failure as a learning opportunity or steppingstone to improve, then you have placed yourself on the path to growth. Creativity research has found that failure is often associated with creative insight. In fact, successful creative work often emerges after multiple moments of impasse and insight.
Key CAA staff and external professionals act as facilitators to provide expertise in strategy, developing detailed marketing plans, digital and direct marketing, paid advertising, campaign creative, and more – a mix of straightforward teaching as well as both gamified and hands-on experiences.
What struck me at both the 2019 and 2023 events was the unexpected depth and high-quality creative thinking from the attendees. The continuous level of engagement was equally impressive, and people traditionally seen as less artistic showcased some remarkable chops. 2019 caught me off-guard, but 2023 still managed to surprise me.
As someone who’s spent their life in a profession that often acts like it has a monopoly on creative thinking, it’s evident to me that creativity is alive and well in everyone, regardless of age or profession, especially with the right tools and a bit of guidance.
Creativity is somewhat different from technical skills like typography, illustration, or writing, which often improve with experience. Those types of skills usually fall into the “don’t try this at home” category. However, with a bit of nurturing, it’s clear that the creative spirit can thrive in any profession. And why is it so important to explore in all walks of life? Quite simply, to innovate. As Edward de Bono, the originator of the term Lateral Thinking said, “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” For me, it underscores the importance of keeping an open mind, rethinking stereotypes, and not underestimating creative potential – even if you happen to be an Insurance Broker :).