Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Insurance Branding Pays Big Dividends and Offers Premium Learning

2011 has been a very good year for brand-building. "Backbone" companies such as Ford and McDonald's have recovered and performed well during the economic crunch. We've seen many brands effectively use and blend social media into their marketing strategies and their success is being measured not only in new buyers but in new "friends," "fans," and "followers" as well. And, many brands seem to have re-discovered the power of the "big idea" and not just the "big execution." The most memorable ad campaigns, according to Ad Age and Adweek, seem to be grounded in strategy and not just above the clouds in terms of production value.

With all this in mind, I've picked the industry that I believe deserves the "Big Dividend Award" in 2011. Drum roll, please...and the winner is, The Insurance Industry. Yes, that boring, stodgy, and price-driven category that we support every month in several categories including life, death, health, home, disability, casualty, and motor vehicles.

Why the insurance industry? Here's a closer look at some of the key players and why they have earned "Big Dividends" this year.

Across the board, the brand work in this category has been brilliant. Think about it. We have more famous spokespersons in the shape of ducks, geckos, Flo, and Mayhem than just about any other category. The advertising has remained interesting, memorable, and oftentimes entertaining. These brands have remained consistent and trend-setting in traditional, social, and digital media applications.

Year-End Report Card:

Allstate A+
  • Enjoy the television commercials and apparently I'm not alone. While the company has 42,000 Facebook "likes," the Mayhem page has over a million. Good work by iconic Chicago agency Leo Burnett.
  • The "viral" nature of Mayhem is spreading; over 17 million views of his commercials on YouTube.
Geico B+

  • Even though advertising is all over the place, from geckos to cavemen, from the "little pig" to a "guy under a rock," it's all fun and creative. The consistent use of "15 minutes can save you 15%" is classic brand work.
  • YouTube subscribers exceed 16,000 and over 36 million combined views.
  • Twitter and Facebook pages have unique personalities for each of their, well, personalities.
State Farm B
  • Nice competitive position of "rolling it all together," from home and health to auto and other." Like a big burrito! Catchy jingles and consistent use of "A better state, State Farm."
  • Strong positioning of the Agent (long a State Farm key attribute) as an expert who can help you navigate through the industry and is there for you - versus saving 15 minutes.
Progressive A+
  • "Flo" had Halloween costumes in her likeness and her own Facebook page has a fan base of over 3 million.
  • I like the use of the fictitious insurance "superstore" to position the company as comprehensive and consumer friendly.
  • Great use of new tehnology and mobile applications - its VIN Capture lets car shoppers take a photo of up to three vehicle ID numbers and compare quotes. Snapshot is a device that records customers' driving habits and rewards them with a 30 percent discount if they make the grade.
  • Results - for first 6 months of 2011, revenue is up by $400 million, according to Adweek.
Not only have these become iconic and integrated branding efforts, but add to the mix Blue Cross Blue Shield (emotional advertising and interesting on-line applications), Farmer's (strong ads), and Travelers still showcasing its red umbrella (not to mention the great dog-burying-bone spot accompanied by Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble") and you have a sleepy industry that has created a lot of noise in 2011! Aflac!

What can hospitals learn from this year's "Big Dividend" award winners:
  • Differentiation - Branding still has to help your organization stake a claim and own a unique position. Geico and State Farm are excellent examples of this approach.
  • Consistency - Whether in digital or traditional media, the name of the game is consistency. Look at how Allstate has integrated social media into their branding mix and how effective it has been. Reminder: Social media should support your brand promise and not be a distinct voice.
  • Creativity - Thankfully, it's not dead. Push yourselves and agency partners to differentiate with meaningful and relevant messages that engage consumers, not just sell products.
  • New technology and mobile applications - Look at Progressive and how the company has leveraged new technology to increase revenue by $400 million. Your hospital should be evaluating iPad (and other tablet applications) as well as new media technologies to showcase your new technologies in clinical care.
These are just a few of the lessons learned from an industry that has really stepped it up this year and put many new faces on their products and services. Even the Jolly Green Giant would turn a darker shade of green.

Make 2012 a great branding year for your organization. Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com


Mark Stinson said...

Who knew such a mundane category could create such creativity? I agree with your assessment of State Farm. They have been long overdue to update "Good Neighbor" (since sadly no one knows their neighbors any more). I'm just surprised at the campaign tone that seems more like freecreditreport.com

Thanks for the update and analysis.

Dave Ullman said...

Good stuff, Rob! Great analysis!

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