Page 5: Competition
When Eagle Star launched its innovative new pension scheme, it needed to be aware of the main competition in the segment of the pension market that it had chosen to enter. At the time, Richard Branson’s Virgin Direct pension launch was generating extensive positive coverage in the consumer media. Eagle Star acknowledged publicly that Virgin had set a new benchmark for the industry and decided to leapfrog, rather than simply emulate, the new entrant to the market.
The unique feature of Eagle Star’s new pension product was the guarantee to refund all charges for any customer wanting to leave in the first two years. This tackled the problem of consumer distrust of the pension industry headon. Eagle Star’s product matched Virgin’s low costs and clear charging structure, but added a choice of investment funds and a no-penalty early surrender clause.
The launch slogan ‘Eagle Star we’re not virgins in the pension market’ was adopted. This played on the irony that a long-established insurer was challenging the fleet-footed newcomer, personified by Richard Branson who was then planning his round-the-world balloon adventure. Given the significance of the story, a press conference was held. The day before, a miniature hot air balloon, carrying the launch slogan, was sent as a ‘teaser’ to national and specialist publications.