My Grudging Admiration for Geico’s Advertising

Dan O'SullivanBranding, KvetchingLeave a Comment

As a consumer who is also a marketer by profession, a brand’s advertising can sometimes inspire conflicting emotions in me. Case in point: Geico.

In my day-to-day life, I’m assaulted by Geico’s advertising ad nauseam. “Fifteen minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance,” my TV, radio, phone and laptop remind me several times a day. The gecko and his friends are relentless.

I’ve always hated overexposure. Perhaps the low point of my life was my post-college stint as a perfume salesperson in London department stores. The gig started during the holiday season, which meant I had to hear Elton John’s unbearable “Step into Christmas” piped over the speaker about once an hour. It would only be a slight exaggeration to say it drove me to the precipice of insanity.

So when I see that cute little gecko struggling with his tiny luggage at the airport or sailing off the coast of Baltimore, I don’t laugh. I just think of how I’m seeing that damn commercial for the fifth time that week.

Doesn’t Geico risk alienating consumers with its unyielding advertising barrage? Aren’t people going to say, “Enough is enough; I’m trusting my vehicle/property/business insurance to another company that’s not all up in my face 24/7”?

Apparently Geico knows what it’s doing. Just last year, Geico overtook Allstate to become the second-largest auto insurer in the United States. (Watch out, State Farm.) Forbes.com’s Scott Davis gives credit for Geico’s rise to strong, consistent positioning in its advertising:

“Because Geico hasn’t moved from its positioning, has stuck with a target segment that values price over paying for a traditional agent network model, and has continued to beat a steady, relevant drum through a series of clever ads and characters—whether its cavemen, pigs, the gecko, banjo players or the newly minted camel of Hump Day fame—customers know exactly what to expect from Geico.”

But what about that “clever” element? Who mandated that commercials about boring old insurance — e.g. by Progressive, State Farm and Allstate — have to be such yuk-fests anyway?

Well, Geico had a good reason for taking the zany route. In this interview, Steve Bassett, the account group creative director for Martin Agency, Geico’s longtime agency of record, explains why humor is central to the brand’s commercials:

“The Martin Agency started working with GEICO in 1994 when GEICO was a challenger brand. At the time, a lot of insurance companies were using fear or scare tactics, such as showing car accidents. GEICO and the Martin Agency tried to use humor to break through the category. We wanted to give the brand a different feel and help it stand out on television.”

Geico has certainly managed to stand out. So I give up. From here on out, Geico, the consumer in me will shut his mouth, while the marketer in me will sing your praises. Just two requests: More talking camels and post-facelift Kenny Rogers.

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