Geico and Progressive turned what used to be an ultra conservative, sleepy industry into a marketing powerhouse segment. The Geico lizard and the perky Progressive sales woman, Flo, have been drilled into our immediate awareness over the last several years with massive marketing campaigns. And it has worked. They have both gained in the bottom line revenue and in market share at the expense of All State and State Farm.
So, why all the push in the insurance industry? It has changed from an agent-centric business to a DIY business. Geico and Progressive have taught the 76 million millennials to shop on line for rates, features and benefits. The agent is no longer the keeper of information. (The web seems to have a way to do that). Companies used to need the agent to be their marketing force. Now, these companies are going to clients direct. Even after customers sign up, rarely do they need an agent to conduct their business, make a claim, or even adjust their policies. Customers can do that themselves. This huge shift has made marketing even more critical. It’s no longer based on word of mouth, “Who’s your agent? Does he give you good service?” Research by J.D. Powers shows that awareness is the driving factor in a customer selecting an insurance company (not agent) to service their needs. The goal is to grab the attention of consumers who would rather not think about insurance. Experts say most people only ponder policies when they have an accident, buy a new car, move, or renew their existing agreement, which usually happens twice a year. That means there are over 20 million people in the market each year who are looking to either switch or decide to stay where they are. Since there is no such thing as “insurance season”, there are thousands of people “shopping” everyday. This means, your brand needs to be constantly out there just to be remembered and considered.
For those who claim all you need is word of mouth or only need an online tactic, hasn’t fought in the trenches of the $1.3 trillion industry. Stakes are high and it takes a complete integrated marketing strategy to win the awareness war. TV has been a huge piece of arsenal in many of the insurance company’s marketing strategy. This gives them broad based awareness. The online efforts have contributed equally to the marketing efforts, from social media (Progressive has over 2.5 million Facebook fans who want to be Flo’s friend) to online advertising. With rates and features being similar (read commodity), what you’re trying to create is Brand Personality. This is at the heart of why brand is so important. It’s the human element that we all, as people, connect with in an otherwise cold company. If we identify with the smart fun, loving lizard we feel that Geico get us. Or, if we relate to the quirky Flo, we believe Progressive is the better choice. Insurance is no longer about facts and stats. It is now being marketed like shoes, beer, or cars.
Marketing is at the heart of business success and brand is at the heart of marketing. You get these two elements right, it will give you a great advantage over competitors who rely on facts and stats.
A side note: The average shopper can only name 4 insurance companies out of the top 11. To get in on the short list, companies are having to advertise – all the time (remember 54,800 people are shopping everyday for insurance)