Archive for the ‘insurance’ category

Progressive Management Anything But

August 19th, 2012

As I’ve said many times before, your brand isn’t about what you say; it’s about what you do.  And based on this story (courtesy of Seth Godin‘s blog) of how Progressive Insurance treats its customers, it’s hard to imagine a company doing a more inept job of brand management.

I realize that a lot of people like Progressive’s “Flo” advertising campaign. (I can only assume these people are also big fans of Gallagher and Carrot Top.)   Not only have I never been a fan of the campaign’s low-brow, unsophisticated humor, it’s always led me to suspect that the people running Progressive’s marketing department have questionable judgment.  Sadly, those suspicions have been confirmed by this story of how Progressive has treated the family of Katie Fisher.

This story tells you two things about Progressive: they’re heartless, and they’re stupid.   Heartless because of the way their actions have dumped salt on the emotional wound that Katie’s death caused her family.  Stupid because the $75,000 they’re trying to save pales in comparison to the cost of the deservedly horrendous publicity they’ve generated for themselves.

Here’s hoping that Progressive’s management will wake up and not only decide to make good on the money they owe the Fishers, but throw in an extra $100,000 or $250,000 as payment for the badly-needed wake-up call.

It would certainly be the progressive thing to do.

State Farm Looks Great in Khakis

June 28th, 2012

Over the past several years, State Farm has wasted tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars on mediocre advertising.  (See my posts in  2011 and 2009.)  Fortunately, a little over a year ago they hired a new ad agency (DDB Chicago), and the result has been one of the strongest ad campaigns in any product category.

My favorite ad from  the campaign is “Jake from State Farm” , which I never tire of seeing even though it’s been on the air for about a year.   The writing, casting and acting are simply perfect.  If they gave Academy Awards for commercials, the people  who play the husband and wife would get my vote for Best Actor and Best Actress.  And whoever created such lines such “I’m married. . .Does it matter?….You’d do that for me?” and “Well she sounds hideous!” would be up for a Best Writing award.

What I especially love is that you hear the brand “State Farm” five times in 30 seconds, and the phrase “It’s Jake from State Farm” has become part of the popular culture.  In other words, there’s no question who the advertiser is. . .or that they’re offering such good policies that at least one customer was motivated to contact them at 3:00 am.

And if five brand name mentions weren’t enough, the campaign also wisely leverages the brand name with its “Get to a Better State” tagline.

Clearly, the state of State Farm’s advertising could not be better.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Ads Downright “Home-ly”

May 3rd, 2011

It seems that every time the TV is on in our house, I’m assaulted by Blue Cross Blue Shield‘s new TV campaign.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out what these ads are trying to say.

They combine the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros with home video footage.  I preach marketing that blends smart strategy with provocative creativity (something I call StrategiCreativity), but this campaign has neither.  In a nutshell, here’s what  bugs me about these ads:

  • I don’t like the song.
  • I can’t understand the lyrics.
  • I don’t understand the point of the fuzzy visuals or the “Home” theme.

The first 20 or 30 times I was exposed to these ads, I had no idea who the advertiser was; there was nothing that grabbed or interested me enough to make me want to pay attention.  I finally got so annoyed that I decided to see who the perpetrator was.  When I realized it was Blue Cross Blue Shield, my reaction was, “These are insurance commercials?”

What we have here, then, is the perfect storm of advertising: it’s annoying, it makes no sense, and it doesn’t register the brand name.

On second thought, maybe I haven’t given Blue Cross Blue Shield enough credit.  If your ads are annoying and nonsensical, maybe it’s good that people don’t notice your brand.

Nationwide Is on Your…Nerves!

February 6th, 2011

I hesitate to criticize a company that sponsors a major golf tour, but the current  TV campaign from Nationwide Insurance is a big duck-hook out-of-bounds.  I don’t have anything against humor in advertising, but I do have two requirements:  first, the humor should revolve around whatever makes the advertised product or service special; second, the humor should be, you know, humorous.

Unfortunately, Nationwide whiffs badly on both counts.  Based on the many ads in this campaign, there appears to be nothing special about the company.  Each ad focuses on a different story, none of which is particularly compelling or convincing.  The ad linked to above talks about how Nationwide tailors their policies to meet each customer’s needs.  This one with Jack Hanna claims that having all of your different types of insurance with Nationwide will result in better “harmony,” whatever that means.  Other ads focus on other promises. The result:  there’s no way to know what Nationwide stands for or what makes them special.

Moreover, the ads aren’t remotely humorous:  their “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World” concept  isn’t funny, the guy who plays him isn’t funny, and he isn’t given anything funny to say.

Frankly, I’ve always questioned the strategic wisdom of Nationwide sponsoring a golf tour.  I mean, what’s the connection between golf and insurance? More to the point, how does Nationwide’s sponsorship of a golf tour affect current and prospective policyholders’ view of Nationwide as an insurance provider?  If there is a connection, Nationwide’s ads fail to make it.  My guess is that the CEO of Nationwide is a big golf fan.

Either that, or they’re simply hoping that golf fans will want to reward Nationwide for supporting the tour.  If that’s their strategy, I suggest that they start creating commercials that aren’t going to annoy viewers and destroy whatever goodwill their sponsorship is generating.

Better yet, I suggest that they lose their “jack of all trades” approach and figure out one aspect of the insurance business in which they can truly excel.  And if they decide to use a humorous approach to tell their new story, find an agency that actually has a sense of humor.

Were State Farm Ad Makers Born in a Barn?

January 30th, 2011

Granted, insurance isn’t the most exciting topic in the world, but that’s no excuse for the consistently lame advertising America’s largest–and my–insurance company keeps putting out there.  Their main “Check with Your Neighbors” campaign contains not a shred of cleverness or memorability.

It essentially consists of a young, attractive, totally uninteresting guy saying a bunch of uninteresting things about an uninteresting topic. Then he tells us to ask our friends about how much they love having State Farm as their insurance company.  (Gee, the next time I’m in need of an icebreaker at a cocktail party, I have just the line!)

In addition, the visuals have very little to do with the spokesman’s words, which only serves to make these ads not just uninteresting but confusing to boot.  To make matters worse, the campaign also does what no #1 brand should ever do:  it mentions the competition, which is a sure sign of an advertiser that has lost its way.

Recently they’ve added a new “Magic Jingle” campaign that’s not as much uninteresting as it is annoying.  At least this campaign shows banged up cars and other damaged goods  to visually reinforce that this is an insurance ad.  Unfortunately, they then have the actors sing the “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There” to have their State Farm agent magically appear to save the day.  I presume the intent is to suggest that State Farm agents are more responsive that competitive agents, but the execution is so hokey that the point is likely lost on most people. State Farm’s ad agency was surely shooting for “great,” but what they hit was “grating.”

In short, State Farm doesn’t seem to have been able to create a very compelling story to tell its target audience.   And if you don’t have a good story to tell, any investment you make in advertising is likely to be an extremely risky one.  You’d think an insurance company would know that.

Travelers Ad Laughable–For All the Wrong Reasons

October 27th, 2010

If you click on this TV ad (and haven’t read the title of this post or looked at the logo above!), I’m guessing that for the first 20 seconds you’ll be thinking something like,”I know I’ve seen this ad several times, but for the life of me I can’t remember what the point is or who the advertiser is.”

Why do ad agencies create advertising that is so hard to understand?  Don’t they get that their audience has better things to do than to decipher the clues and connect the dots that they’ve so cleverly (or not) provided?  The fact is that unless you’re an advertising geek like me, you won’t even bother to try.  Instead, you’ll turn the channel, pick up a magazine, converse with whomever else is in the room, daydream–anything but exert the effort required to unravel their convoluted ad.

If you were to watch this ad with the sound off (and it’s not much better with the sound on), there’s absolutely no way you’d know the ad is saying that Travelers will make sure your damaged car will be repaired using the right replacement parts.  In fact, there’s no way you’d know the commercial is for an insurance company, or that it has anything to do with automobiles.

Unfortunately, the agency–and presumably the client–fell in love with the idea of using computer-generated imagery (CGI) of a rabbit laughing hysterically at a snake with a rattle tied to its tail.  As entertainment this is mediocre, and as advertising it’s downright pathetic.

A few years ago Travelers had an infinitely better campaign that creatively used its distinctive red umbrella to reinforce the notion that Travelers provides numerous types of protection.  It also left absolutely no doubt that Travelers is the brand being advertised.

I’d be shocked if the people who produced and approved that campaign are the same ones involved with the current ad.  Either way, I’d say it’s time for the current Travelers ad to hit the road.

Liberty Mutual Files Irresponsible Claim

April 6th, 2010

Last night I  had a trivial but all-too familiar experience:  a TV commercial began, and immediately I realized that while it was one I had seen dozens of times, I had no idea who the advertiser was.  A whopping 51 seconds into the commercial, I learned that the advertiser was Liberty Mutual.

It’s bad enough that this spot does such a poor job of registering the name of the advertiser.  But what’s just as bad is this:  after nearly a minute of  watching people do good deeds while we listen to a background song with barely intelligible and rather irrelevant lyrics (HEM’s “Half an Acre”), we finally hear an announcer telling us something about the brand being advertised.  What’s even worse, here’s what the announcer says:  “When it’s people who do the right thing, they call it being responsible.  When it’s an insurance company, they call it Liberty Mutual.”

Oh, really?  Is that the way people talk about Liberty Mutual?   Have you ever heard anybody mention what a responsible company Liberty Mutual is?  Me neither; in fact, I’ve never heard anyone ever mention Liberty Mutual period. Don’t get me wrong; for all I know, Liberty Mutual is a wonderful company, but this commercial does absolutely nothing to persuade me of that.

If you’re trying to convince me that Liberty Mutual is truly a beacon of responsibility, give me some substance.  Build a commercial around a true story of how Liberty Mutual did the right thing when other insurance companies were shirking their responsibility.  Show me an actual client raving about how Liberty Mutual went above and beyond the call of duty for her.  Give me some statistics about how Liberty Mutual is ranked #1 by insurance clients for responsibility or integrity or customer service.

In other words, give me something I can believe instead of insulting my intelligence and wasting my time by simply making an empty, flat-footed and utterly unimpressive claim about how people talk about you.  Wouldn’t you think that an insurance company would be a little more adept when it comes to claims?

To paraphrase Liberty Mutual’s announcer, “When a company spends money on a bad campaign, they call it being irresponsible.  When it’s a really bad campaign, they call it Liberty Mutual.”

Close, But No “Aha!”

October 3rd, 2009

Have you seen the TV ads from “the proud sponsor of the ‘aha’ moment”?  If you have, do you know whose ads they are? I’m guessing you don’t. 

I’ll end the suspense: the advertiser is Mutual of Omaha. Unfortunately, their advertising represents a bad execution of a good strategy. I’m a big fan of marketing communications–logos, taglines, ad designs, etc.–that are “ownable”, meaning that they can be uniquely tied to your brand.  This concept has the potential to be that, as “aha” composes the last two syllables in “Omaha”.  However, the ads don’t make this clear; I had to see the ad at least a dozen times before I figured it out…and I’m someone who can’t watch, see or hear an ad without proactively looking for clever wordplays.

In fairness to Mutual of Omaha, when they display their logo at the very end of the commercial, the “aha” part of “Omaha” is highlighted. But it’s much too subtle and much too late.  These ads should make it crystal clear from the very beginning that “aha” comes from the word “Omaha” by using a powering and interesting visual device, such as first showing the word “aha” and then adding “Mutual of Om” in front of it. Whatever the device, they should repeat it again at the end of the commercial. It also would help to have a verbal device, such as a line like “Bring your ‘aha’ to Omaha,” or “We put the ‘aha’ in ‘Omaha’.”

Such devices can sometimes be a little hokey, but isnt’ it better to be hokey and get noticed than to be so subtle that your audience doesn’t get it?

Like a Bad Neighbor

January 12th, 2009

I was just bored to tears–once again–by a commercial I’ve seen seemingly thousands of times and yet don’t understand.  It’s a State Farm commercial about fans anticipating and preparing for the upcoming Sunday NFL games.  The inane lyrics say things like “Hey Mr. Sunday” and “Lookin’ kinda fun day”.  Huh?!?! The spot ends with people in the stands holding cards forming the State Farm logo–I think. I qualify that last statement because–despite repeat exposure–I have only a hazy memory of this exceptionally unmemorable commercial.

In fact, when I heard the annoying song that starts the commercial, I looked up from my laptop because I was curious to see who the advertising assailant was. After all the times I’ve been exposed to the spot, I couldn’t for the life of me recall the advertiser.  A classic sign of a poorly designed piece of communication.
Beyond the lack of creativity, what bothers me most is the lack of any apparent strategic underpinning. What does any of this commercial have to do with insurance? What service exactly is State Farm advertising?  Are they saying they can insure you from getting hit in the face with a wayward field goal attempt?  
State Farm has been my insurance company for my entire life, and I’ve always been happy with their performance.  But this spot makes me long for the days of “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”…and wish that I could buy insurance protecting me from boring, inane, annoying advertising.