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The brand awareness associated with characters such as Tony the Tiger, Mr. Clean, Ronald McDonald, or Mr. Peanut, to name a few, is the reason why mascots have been used in advertising for decades.
Some of the world’s biggest and most recognized brands have mascots, or characters, created to aid in brand awareness and recognition. The property and casualty insurance sector is no exception, and it’s leading the charge. Think about it: Insurance can be a complex web for many consumers to navigate. Mascots help these companies humanize their brands, while making their products more understandable and memorable.
Below we look at some of the most well-known insurance mascots, how they came about, and the impact that they have had for their respective companies.
The Aflac Duck
It’s hard not to think of that funny duck when someone mentions insurance company Aflac. The Aflac Duck—it’s official name—first made its appearance in January 2000, in a commercial called “Park Bench.”
Since then, The Aflac Duck has been quacking the company’s name to prospective policy holders with over 70 commercials to date. Publicis’ Kaplan Thaler Group was the agency that created the duck. The idea came about when one of the agency's art directors walked through Central Park at lunchtime—clearly still thinking about work—and was repeating "Aflac” as he brainstormed the perfect campaign. He realized that the company's name sounded like a duck's quack. The rest is history.
The company gave the duck a voice in 2009, when the Aflac Duck made its appearance on social networks Facebook (789,457 followers to date) and Twitter (65,867 followers to date). Its feeds are full of humorous videos, memes, and GIFs.
According to the company, the launch of the Aflac Duck catapulted the brand’s consumer awareness to where about nine out of 10 people now recognize the Aflac brand in both the United States and Japan.
Here’s one of the latest commercials.
Allstate’s Mayhem character was created by Leo Burnett Worldwide in 2010. The character, played by actor Dean Winters, helps Allstate personify all the things that can go wrong for drivers today, and reminds people that Allstate’s got them covered.
The story behind Mayhem is simple: “We wanted to kick Flo’s ass,” Nina Abnee, EVP at Leo Burnett, told Advertising Age in 2014.
Today, Mayhem has his own YouTube playlist, which has over 2 million video views. He is also active on Twitter (115,762 followers) and Facebook (1.9 million followers), and actually has more social followers than Allstate itself does on both of these platforms.
Indeed, Mayhem has had quite the impact on Allstate. In fact, just two fiscal quarters after launching the character, Allstate saw a 4.3% increase in sales ($7.9 billion). One ad in particular that sticks out is Mayhem’s “Social Savvy Burglar” commercial at the 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl, which reportedly resulted in an 18% increase in home insurance sales.
Since her debut in 2008 in the commercial “Checkout,” which kicked off Progressive’s “Superstore” campaign, Flo has appeared in more than 100 commercials for Progressive. She was created by advertising agency Arnold Worldwide and is played by actress/comedian Stephanie Courtney.
The concept for Flo was actually an accident, according to a 2014 Advertising Age interview with Progressive CMO Jeff Charney. Flo was originally scripted as a friendly cashier in the “Checkout” commercial, but Courtney ad-libbed the line, “Wow, I say it louder” at the end during her audition. That’s when producers decided that Flo should play a bigger role in the campaign, and Courtney has continued to be an integral part of how Flo has evolved over the years.
Flo has almost 5 million likes on Facebook and 50,000 Twitter followers. She has even become an inspiration for Halloween costumes, which Progressive proudly dons on social platforms. Progressive’s annual reports indicate an overall profit gain since Flo’s inception in 2008. While 2008 indicated an overall loss in comparison to the prior year, 2009 featured a 3% net premium increase.
The Geico Gecko made its first appearance during the 1999-2000 television season and has since become an advertising icon.
The Gecko was born very much out of necessity, as advertisers had been preparing for when the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) asked their 135,000 members to go on strike in May 2000, preventing the use of live actors.
What’s an advertiser to do? Some turned to previously used commercials, and others had staff fill in for the actors. But insurer Geico turned to the Martin Agency, which used computer generated imagery (CGI) to create the fresh new face of car insurance.
The idea for the Gecko came during a creative session at the agency. “The name ‘Geico’ was often mispronounced ‘gecko,’ and as the brainstorming began, a quick doodle of a gecko appeared,” the insurer explains on its website. “Successful ad campaigns from the past have proven animals create a strong connection between customers and companies. With this in mind, the Gecko came to life.”
The Gecko has been featured in more than 150 Geico commercials since his creation. But the million-dollar question is: Does the Gecko sell insurance? We won’t know for sure, since Geico is a privately held organization. However, it ranks No. 1 in new-customer acquisition and is the only top brand in its category to achieve double-digit growth (13.1%) during the past four years. Additionally, a brand study by IAG found that the Gecko has resulted in 20% higher brand recall, 32% higher message recall, and 20% higher likability than the insurance industry’s top three major competitors.