Maybe you’ve noticed, but the auto insurance portion of advertising has exploded. Seriously, watch TV and tell me it hasn’t. I see two, sometimes three, commercials from different companies during one commercial block. So, naturally, I’ve pitted them against one another. Which brand has the most effective advertising campaign?
First, let’s establish some parameters so that we can be objective.
- Goal of the company:
- Entice more people to invest in their insurance.
- Goal of the consumer:
- Spend as little on insurance as possible while still maintaining the protection that gives them piece of mind.
The knee-jerk reaction in marketing is to offer a lower price than the competition. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. Consider your auto insurance. Low prices are great, but what if it meant you were less protected. A car accident is a terrible inconvenience. Financial repercussions can easily escalate to tens of thousands of dollars. When that’s you, when you’re staring at your demolished vehicle, you’re not thinking about how much you pay for auto insurance. You’re thinking about whether or not your insurer will take care of you while you put things back together.
If this market could be boiled down to its core, there would be one word that remained: trust. Insurance is all about trust. Trust that the company has your back when life throws a curve ball. Trust that you’ll still be ok when the unexpected comes your way. All of these insurance companies advertise low rates. But which one really goes for the deeper need for insurance? Which one goes for trust? Let’s look at each of the five strongest brands and decide.
If I told you that one of the major auto insurance companies was a gimic, which one would it be? I’d bet most of you would say Geico. The rest would say esurance. Why? When it comes to advertising, Geico takes the low road. They rely heavily on cheap gimics to give their ads humor and make themselves stand out. What’s the problem with this? Geico is confusing memorability with good branding. Yes, I can tell a Geico ad when I see it, but what is it making me associate with their brand? They’re low budget? Dry? Corny? That their CEO isn’t smart? Sure, these things get an easy chuckle, but at what expense? In the realm of auto insurance, looking like a cheap gimic probably isn’t the best idea. Geico definitely has a long way to go when it comes to understanding the needs of their customers.
As I already mentioned, this would be another brand high on the ‘gimic scale.’ The big problem esurance faces is that it’s an online company. If I get in a car accident, who will take care of me? A website? A look at their advertising doesn’t help matters. They focus their campaign around a cartoon character named Erin. She finds herself in several strange adventures that have nothing to do with auto insurance, but somehow finds a way to make the plug. So, my insurance is a website and a cartoon character? Another example of advertising that misses the mark in hopes of creating an easily distinguished campaign. However, it seems they’re starting to wise up. They have recently launched a new campaign that shows the employees that work for them. It is a somewhat clever concept that pivots the IT Staff in the office against the Customer Service Staff. The craft could be a little better. They’re not quite Zappos, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Another online insurance company. These guys are using their heads a little bit though. The advertisements focus on a physical apparition of their online store, where Flo, a very bubbly and friendly store clerk, helps people find insurance that fits their price range. They are doing several things right. One, they are giving consumers a very positive face to identify with. If Flo worked at a certain grocery store, it’s likely that I’d do all of my shopping there. Another thing they are doing right is showing their signature Progressive SUV at the end of every commercial. It’s subtle, but it tells consumers that there are actually Progressive Agents in the ‘real world.’ They also push saving money more than any of the other brands. And they accomplish all of this while still maintaining easily identifiable advertisements. So what are they doing wrong? As likeable as Flo is, it doesn’t look like she’s in charge of anything. She’s just working there part time while she goes through nursing school. She’s not going to take care of me if I need something. She just works a cash register. While Progressive is doing several things right in their campaign, this is one area they are falling short in.
State Farm showed up late to the party. This is a company that has long been established in the market and already has a huge customer base. Seeing the other companies explode on the advertising scene must’ve made them more than a little nervous; they decided to act. They don’t face the obstacles of online business or of being a young company. So what did they do? In my opinion, they looked at the advertisements of their competitors, selected the most effective one, and then tried to replicate it for themselves. What we get is a man in his early thirties who walks around in ordinary settings and talks about trusting people and finding easy ways to save money. It’s a very good attempt at a campaign, but take a look at their spokesman. They fall into the same trap as Progressive. This guy doesn’t make any important decisions. And while Flo seems warm and friendly, this guy seems like he doesn’t enjoy his job that much. He’s cocky and could be temperamental.
So who did StateFarm rip off? That’s right, Allstate. These guys are pros. Like State Farm and Progressive, we are given a spokesman to identify with. But unlike them, this man is warm, genuine, and seems to carry authority. He’s much older than any of the other spokespeople. His voice is deep, and he carries a great deal of wisdom. This is the kind of person that says, ‘Don’t worry about it. We all make mistakes.’ We find him in several situations where he imparts his wisdom and inspiring ideas to us. He encourages us to make sure our lives and the things we care about are in ‘safe hands.’ Above all of this, their commercials are focused on everything their company does to take care of its customers. Things like ‘Accident Forgiveness’ and ‘Breaking-up’ with your current insurance agent. Allstate, in my eyes, is the only insurance company that really understands their consumers. Their ads are packed with solid, genuine trust.
And the winner is. . .
As if you didn’t already guess. Allstate takes the cake on this one. They are an excellent example of understanding their customer’s needs and then building the campaign around them. So who do I insure with? I’m with State Farm. . . for now.
I'm Scott, and I love writing things like this. But I spend most of my time working as a designer.
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