It seems they’re everywhere – the GEICO Gecko and Flo, the Progressive sales lady. And while some find them irritating, even aggravating, there’s no denying their impact. CNN Money reports that GEICO added 700,000 new policies last year; the insurer’s website reports that its policy base reached a total of 11 million this spring. As the U.S. economy slowly adds insurable risks, the gecko is doing his job winning consumers.
Flo the Progressive lady is earning her share of business as well. After sales dipped in 2008, Progressive used Flo to aggressively promote its direct sales website to television viewers. It’s now one of the Internet’s most popular insurance sites. Company sales grew by 3% in 2009 and 2010, expanding by 3.6% in 2011.
Why Flo and the Gecko Sell Insurance
The challenge with selling automobile insurance is that state-regulated policies are a commodity. There are not a lot of coverage distinctions to highlight. Therefore, key differentiators include company strength, service and price. Carriers like Amica (as The Allied Group’s marketing and design staff well knows) can accentuate all three. GEICO and Progressive have chosen to focus on price, a winning strategy in a struggling economy.
But how many times can consumers hear, “We’ll save you money” before they tune out or change the channel? As the Koreans say, “Even the best song becomes tiresome if heard too often.” Enter Flo and the Gecko. Many find the lizard cute, with his huge eyes and classy British accent. And Flo’s Facebook fan page drew 4.2 million Likes. Media reporter and author Nicole LaPorte observed:
“But whether you love her or hate her, you can’t ignore her. In the two years since Flo debuted as the unflappably happy sales clerk…she has become the most recognizable mascot on television.”
Flo is like that girl you knew in high school, a little awkward and dumb but likable, who always made you chuckle. You never knew what she’d say next. And while the gecko is an entirely different personality, his clever congeniality leaves viewers anticipating his next move as well. Prospective insureds refuse to change the channel while Flo and the gecko find new ways to tell the same story: “Come with us. We’ll treat you right and you’ll save.”
These well designed commercials accomplish four important things:
First, they embed GEICO and Progressive’s low-price message in consumers’ minds. As researcher Dr. David Myers reports, “Mere repetition can make things believable.”
Second, the regular supply of new commercials combines with our curiosity about their next adventure, making us willing to see and hear these amusing characters again and again. Message fatigue is no problem here.
Third, Flo and the gecko’s amiability rubs off on the insurance companies they represent. Comparable to Pavlov’s dogs, we are quickly conditioned to like Progressive and GEICO.
Fourth, that liking along with regular exposure keeps these two direct writers at the top of consumers’ minds. If insureds are looking to save money at renewal time, they know a couple of good places to look.
Examining GEICO and Progressive’s marketing communication strategies uncovers valuable approaches that all carriers can apply to their benefit. We’ll discuss some in Part Two.