Monday, January 16, 2012

Insurance with a smile.

Television advertising has seen a surge of advertising for insurance lately. This, once unexciting, category seems to discovered the value of brand building with big broadcast budgets. I can’t be sure when it started to shift but a cast of characters has become a part of the zeitgeist of popular culture. The AFLAC duck, the Gecko with the Cockney accent. The incensed Caveman. Flo the smiling purveyor of insurance packages sold in a simulated retail environment against a white limbo/seamless background.  The Messenger offering to save you money by paying your tolls or feeding your parking meter to help Flo sell Progressive. Farmers Insurance University instructor walking groups of trainees to get that army ready to sell.

You gotta give a lot of credit to the agency that ten years ago used the mnemonic devise of the Duck with Gilbert Gottfried’s voice to reinforce the name of the product that offers incremental insurance to pay bills if you are hurt and miss work. “Ask about it a work.” They fired Gilbert and eventually the agency-of-record too. The new agency tried to suggest “If you don’t know AFLAC, you don’t know quack” with wordier ads and a prettier graphic duck icon. But, if you noticed, the duck is back in character recently. It is part of the AFLAC brand. Even box office busting actor Ben Affleck can’t avoid it.  

The Gecko is another device used to recall the brand GEICO. The boring acronym that once stood for Government Employees Insurance Company is reaching unimaginable recognition for the Berkshire Hathaway owned business. Now that our Gecko friend is a trusted advisor we see him in countless situations and reminding us that we can “save 15%, or more, on our insurance.”

The Caveman entered the picture when Geico wanted to drive traffic to the internet to find out on-line what savings might be available. “It’s so easy a caveman can do it.” the ads promised. The Caveman took the advertising as an insult. He is, after all, sophisticated and modern. He is offended at the insensitivity to cavemen everywhere.

Allstate introduced Mayhem to remind us of blind spots with the voice of TV and film actor Dennis Haysbert for reassurance. Unexpected damage due to carelessness, ma1functioning GPS systems and poor TV dish installations were also works of Mayhem.

Flo appeared on the scene in 2008 and suggested a perfect bundle of Progressive insurance products can be gift wrapped and priced appropriately for your needs. Recently the Messenger has joined her in demonstrating savings by paying for parking meters and tolls. (He might be a bit cheesey but you gotta love it when he saves you a some change and offers you a wink.)  
The State Farm jingle can conjure up your agent to magically solve your problems. (Like a good neighbor, State Farm is …poof). The Framers agents are getting first rate (albeit amusing) training in museum-like classrooms on a campus just for them.

My theory is that the category woke up to the fact that to win market share they needed a reason to differentiate insurance brands. Sorting out just who deserves the right to cover you in case of misfortune is not a decision you can make in 30 seconds. But when you think about it the consequences of not having the right insurance, you want to go with a company you can trust. Maybe that company makes you smile a little bit.         

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