How Advertising Has Made Buying Insurance a Laughing Matter
Insurance no longer has to be boring...
Not too long ago, the insurance industry was exciting… VERY exciting (note sarcasm). Actually, the insurance industry was about as exciting as watching paint dry. Long rambling papers, tons of small print, mind-numbing numbers and formulas all explained incomprehensively to you by a door-to-door salesman. Even though insurance was necessary, most people dreaded shopping around for insurance due to the gray nature of the industry. Not to blame the insurance salesman but insurance was being presented to the potential customer in a very boring manner. Thanks to some recent marketing techniques, the perception of the insurance industry as a boring, monotone-themed sleep-aid has changed. In the last few years, some very clever advertising agencies have created a few entertaining brand identities for some of the larger insurance companies, and the customer perception of these companies has changed dramatically. People are actually enjoying the televised commercials the insurance companies are putting out, and insurance sales are up because of it. Advertising isn’t simply about putting a company’s name in front of the audience – it’s about making sure the audience remembers the name of the company the next day.
The Geico Cavemen
One of the more memorable marketing campaigns put on by an insurance company has to be that of the Geico Cavemen. The campaign begins when a Geico spokesperson unwittingly offends a boom operator by coining the phrase “So easy a caveman can do it.” The offended boom operator is, in fact a caveman. The next commercial deals with that same spokesperson taking the cavemen out to lunch to apologize. Throughout the next few years, these pseudo-yuppie cavemen are put into situations where they’re accidentally exposed to Geico advertisements on an ongoing basis, and disappointment and disgust seem to be the ongoing theme. America quickly grew to love these affable primates, and Geico became a household name. The cavemen became so wildly popular, in fact, that they even landed their own TV show (though it sputtered out before it even had a chance.)
The Aflac Duck
Humorist/journalist Dave Barry once took a poll among his readers trying to figure out what the funniest animal in the world was. Popular choices were the platypus, the monkey, the beaver, the hippo and even the wily weasel. Topping the poll, however, was the common duck. Apparently, Americans find the duck to be the most humorous animal in the animal kingdom, and Aflac’s advertising agency used that little fact to their big advantage. The Aflac duck is anthropomorphically human, although he’s a duck. Typically, he plays the protagonist in the Aflac commercials and saves damsels in distress (damsels who can’t pay their bills). Working with the speed of a hummingbird on crack, the Aflac duck quickly renders the “to-be-paid” pile into a glistening pile of worry-free receipts, and with his familiar “AFLAC!” quack, he’s been imprinted upon millions of Americans who are now customers of this creative insurance company. The message one gets when analyzing an Aflac commercial is that Aflac insurance can not only save the day, but can do so in a “ducky” style!
Nationwide Insurance – Life Comes At You Fast
Another one of the insurance giants to embrace the value of comedy is Nationwide Insurance Services. Their “Life comes at you fast” campaign is based loosely around the idea that anything can happen. Unlike some other insurance companies, the Nationwide insurance company won’t automatically dismiss your insurance claim based on a series of unlikely and unfortunate events. The commercials are humorous due to the complete absurdity of the situations portrayed such as a fishing boat crashing through a two-story roof, a red sports car getting absolutely destroyed by everything from bird-crap to a garbage truck, and even a man trying to figure out what a certain switch controls (the neighbors garage door). “Life comes at you fast” is also a reminder that you should never be left uninsured because you never know what can happen, no matter how absurd.
‘Flo’ the Progressive Girl
With her wacky demeanor, bright eyes and “tricked-out name badge”, Flo has quickly become the official spokesperson for Progressive Insurance Company. Set up like a store, people are directed to where they should look for their insurance by the likable Flo, and in some commercials, people even have their own isle. Being a cross between a waitress, a cashier and the classic girl next door, Flo is an effective icon for Progressive to advertise the ease with which customers can create and buy their custom policies. Flo is a brilliant marketing strategy that leaves a positive, feel-good impression on Progressive’s potential customers, and originally hired to only do one commercial, Progressive was smart enough to extend the actress’s contract into an entire advertising campaign.
Erin E. Surance – Get Animated
While not exactly falling into the "comedy" category, Esurance.com's "Erin E. Surance" campaign is a highly creative and effective marketing tool that appeals to a younger, computer-savvy market. The character of Erin E. Surance is an animated super-spy who battles the evils of high insurance prices, and with her arsenal of rappelling ropes, night-vision goggles and other spy tools, she always outsmarts the bad guys. Done very much like a cartoon version of a James Bond movie, only using an attractive girl as the protagonist, anyone who has seen one of these commercials is likely to remember the name Esurance the next time they’re shopping for an affordable policy. Erin does battle with an assortment of villains including an oversize tree eating robot (part of their going green campaign), a mad scientist and an evil race car driver (done in the theme of Speed Racer). Esurance.com has used the growing popularity of anime to grab the attention of generation Y, and has helped to establish brand familiarity among a large percentage of those people who choose to do their shopping online. Esurance.com is one of the few insurance companies that specializes in online purchasing, and their motto of “print, quote, buy” advertises the ease with which people can get insurance fast.
These are just a few examples of how creative advertising has helped a rather dull and boring industry to establish a brand identity that captures the audience’s attention. The return on investment demonstrates just how effective the power of advertising can be. As I said earlier, simply putting your company’s name in front of the customer is not enough… they have to walk away remembering you. This can be accomplished through giving the customer what they want – entertainment. Just close your eyes and think about the first commercial that pops into your head. Chances are that commercial was funny, scary, emotional or in some other way highly impressionable. Now consider that you not only held this commercial in the back of your mind, but I’m sure you remember the name of the company that produced this advertisement. Furthermore, on a subconscious level, the next time you see that product while out shopping or the next time you need a related service, you’re more than 50% likely to strongly consider choosing that product over the others. It’s called “brand familiarity” and basically means that people are more likely to purchase an item that they are familiar with than one they’re not, regardless of whether or not they’re first time buyers. It’s not enough to simply throw your name in front of millions of people – that would be like throwing a hundred golf balls towards the hole and hoping that one or two might actually go in. You have to sit down and strategize about how to make your product desirable. Obviously you want to focus on telling your potential customers what makes your product/service better than your competition, but you also need to do so while making an impression. The truly successful advertising campaigns will keep your customers wanting more, so don’t let them down. One funny commercial is great, but use it in a “mini-series” of related commercials and you’re almost guaranteed to nail a hole-in-one! Creative advertising is absolutely necessary to not only reach, but capture the attention of your customers. The advertising agencies that produced the above commercials have taken a boring industry and turned it into a laughing matter – but in a way that benefits both the audience as well as the advertisers.