When it comes to marketing, insurance companies have certainly come a long way over the years. Once seen as dull, the insurance industry has produced some of the most memorable campaigns by employing reliable marketing techniques to share their message, including icons, humor and new media.
Even in the 1950s, recognizable athletes, politicians and scientists were included in soft-sell ad campaigns. The John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston touted noted figures, including Major League Baseball player Christy Mathewson (nicknamed “Bix Six”), with a short story about his life in weekly publications such as Life magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. A sales pitch written by John Hancock’s president, Byron K. Elliott, ran opposite the ad, carefully tying the historical figure’s character to the importance of investing in insurance.
Today’s insurance advertising campaigns incorporate these same techniques, but brand awareness and positive brand beliefs have really ramped up. While ‘icon’ might be a strange moniker for the Geiko Gecko, the animated reptile is definitely forever joined with the insurance company. The mispronunciation of the word ‘Geiko’ with ‘gecko’ in 1999 with actor Kelsey Grammar’s voice launched the popular cartoon reptile’s career. Another iconic advertising icon is Flo, the upbeat cashier who sports the perky retro hairstyle and enthusiastically promotes Progressive Insurance. From her tricked-out name tag to her Chuck Taylor All Star shoes, the character debuted in 2008 and isn’t going away anytime soon – especially considering that she has her own Halloween costume.
Humor plays a huge role in modern insurance company marketing efforts. Honestly, before Allstate Insurance’s Mayhem character, a metaphor for disaster that debuted in 2010, how many people differentiated Allstate from any other insurance company?
The dry sense of humor, compared to the character Mr. White from the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs, appeals to a younger demographic. It depicts unpredictable accidents and was created in response to its ranking fourth in advertising spending behind Geiko, State Farm and Progressive.
What better way is there to tell your audience your insurance agency is available 24/7 than with a middle-aged actor calling an agent at 3 a.m.? The State Farm ‘Get to a Better State’ campaign also uses the humor approach. The believable dialogue between a sheepish husband and an aggravated wife who thinks she’s interrupting a completely different kind of phone conversation in the Jake from State Farm commercial is stellar. The relatable ad focuses less on the company’s services and more on overall brand awareness.
In 2013, in an effort to launch the leading Australian insurance company AAMI’s new Facebook page, the company invited Facebook users to digitally insert their photos into an AAMI television commercial. Integrating broadcast and social media meshed well with the AAMI’s Safe Driver Rewards campaign. The brand-related content campaign earned the agency Best Insurance Social Media Campaign for the 2013 Internet Advertising Competition Award.
The Webby Awards is a great place to learn from the best marketers out there. At last year’s 18th Annual Webby Awards, Prudential won for its website The Challenge Lab that included videos, interactive tools, expert articles and 75 interactive pieces that analyze human behaviors that affect our financial futures.
As the battle for consumers’ attention spans rages on, insurance advertisers will need to create truly standout campaigns that grab the audience. Even if you’re not in the market, a good ad can change your mind. Just watch this one by John Lewis Home Insurance.