So This Gecko, Caveman, and a Woman Named Flo Walk into a Bar: Part I

brand building

The Gecko, the Cavemen, an enthusiastic woman named Flo, Mayhem, magical jingles and Mike McGlone smugly asking rhetorical questions. These are just some of the ways auto insurance companies have attempted to separate themselves and establish greater market share in a multibillion dollar advertisement war aimed at capturing widespread consumer attention[1].

Although traditional companies like Allstate and State Farm still do the majority of their business offline, the gap is closing between the online and offline space as auto insurance companies continue to embrace the merits of a hybrid strategy.  While most auto insurance companies generally focus on conservative risk protection, insurers are doing a lot more to get their brand out there and this includes devoting increased resources to advertising in order to keep up with the aggressive marketing pace of the industry.

E.J Schults, a writer for Advertising Age, echoes this point when writing “The top players are doling out the dollars once reserved for categories like beer and travel, pouring impressively lavish budgets into funding splashy campaigns, partnerships with celebrities and rock bands, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.” Auto insurance companies are spending more year-over-year, and a few insurers are finding success differentiating themselves in the crowded online market. Once merely pesky competitors to giants Allstate and State Farm, GEICO and Progressive are two notable successes that have coupled self-servicing with marketing to make an impact in the online space. A recent study by Advertising Age claimed “93% of consumers recognize a description of GEICO’s advertising, well above the No. 2 most-recognized ad, Progressive, with 82%[2].”

Using the latest Compete February 2011 data, I tested this claim to get a sense of what is top of mind when consumers shop for auto insurance online. I first took at look at search referral data to analyze the brands consumers are searching for, based on a list of branded and non-branded keywords.

I also took a look at the referral shares from search (i.e., where the consumer went after they searched regardless of the brand bucket they searched on), and came across the same finding: GEICO and Progressive have been able to establish themselves and maintain their digital place in the industry using smart and witty advertising that resonates with consumers.

auto insurance search referrals for feb 2011

Clearly, GEICO and Progressive have established their brand awareness, making themselves strong competitors in the search sphere. But does this translate into closing the deal? Next week I will examine how they perform on the metric that matters, how well auto insurers are turning their prospects into applicants. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on Geckos, Cavemen, and spunky ladies named Flo?

[1]Schultz, E.J.. “How the Insurance Industry Got Into a $4 Billion Ad Brawl.” Advertising Age (2011): n. pag. Web. 21 Feb 2011.

[2]Pollack, Judann. “In the Insurance Ad War, Consumers Ask: Who’s Who?.” Advertising Age (2011): n. pag. Web. 21 Feb 2011.