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

As seen on tv

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Last week I took a look at the battle for online market share in auto insurance from a search perspective noting that GEICO and Progressive have successfully marketed their character-based advertisement campaigns online. They have also coupled their efforts with social media to significantly elevate their digital brand awareness. You don’t have to look any further than Facebook to see that over 2.5 million people have “liked” the Flo Progressive page compared to the only ~25,000 people that have “liked” Progressive’s company page. Although establishing brand awareness is important to marketers, what is most important to CMO’s and marketing teams worldwide is if consumer awareness is leading to business results.

Although witty character-based marketing has generated online brand awareness for some companies, it is also important that advertisements do more than just entertain consumers and make them aware. Looking at the share of online consumers shopping for auto insurance that visit each auto insurance company website as well as share of completed online applications on each site; it appears that GEICO and Progressive have effectively used marketing to separate themselves from the competition with regards to the online space. This brand awareness has led to substantial business results as you can see in the graph below.

auto insurance prospect and application shares

This chart shows that there is more to the GEICO Gecko and Flo the Progressive girl than just their entertainment value, these characters not only make customers laugh but may also influence customers to shop and convert on the internet. Executive VP of Allstate Nina Abnee sums it up best when saying,”Nobody wants to sit around and talk about car insurance…In order to combat that, we need to entertain. We needed to get people’s attention.”[1] With that being said, GEICO and Progressive not only capture the highest prospect shares for online consumers shopping for auto insurance but they are also the leaders in capturing online application shares.

While humorous, character-based advertisements have been the way for insurance companies to increase their online market share of late, there is an inherent limit of exposure where advertising may have diminishing effects on a brand and their marketing messages. What seems to have worked thus far is to spend a lot and establish yourself in the market with some sort of icon or humorous character consumers can relate to personally and associate with your brand. When you have entrenched your brand into the mind of the consumer, you then have to keep your brand fresh with subsidiary advertising and messaging. Meyer Shields, an Insurance analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, best describes the dynamic of the industry when saying, “There’s enormous overlap between the companies that advertise a lot and the companies that are growing faster…It seems very much to work.”[2] GEICO has combined the Gecko with a series of other ad campaigns such as the Caveman and Mike McGlone, basing their message around the idea that “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Progressive has coupled Flo with the “Messenger” who sneaks up on customers pitching them on discounts and reiterating Flo’s message to shop auto insurance.

In an industry where competitors are fighting for a piece of the same pie, it is becoming increasingly important to grab the attention of consumers on the Internet as well as offline. With such a fragmented industry laden with advertisements, the companies that are advertising the most and keeping their advertising content the freshest seem to be getting the best business results in terms of online brand exposure and conversion.

*Competitive Set: State Farm, Allstate, Esurance, GEICO, Progressive,, Farmers, 21st Century, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide

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