Skip to content

Relationship Insurance?

The last decade of insurance advertising–and car insurance advertising in particular–has been really interesting to watch. Insurance brands have employed a lot of characters and situations which are quirky, ironic, abrasive, absurd and comic in ways that would have been unimaginable in the category pre-1999. It’s a seismic shift in the story insurers seem to be telling. It’s not a shift in the story of what insurance is or does–insurance is pretty much a given–but it seems to embody a shift in the *relationship* between insurers and their audience.

For most people, insurance is something they have to buy. By and large, people don’t spend their days wistfully thumbing through glossy catalogues of different auto policies, daydreaming about which one would look good on their car. Buying insurance is often a costly, potentially high-stakes chore. Not only is it generally unrewarding on the front end, but any serious interaction between the audience and the brand usually takes place after something has gone horribly wrong. It’s not hard to see why the audience may have developed a relationship with insurance companies that could be described as quirky, ironic, abrasive or even dysfunctional.

Many insurance marketers seem to be trying to manage this relationship by using irony and oddball humor as a way to connect. That got us wondering, are these ads just trying to humanize their brands by making people laugh–or are they actually trying to build equity by bringing honesty and authenticity to an essentially troubled relationship?

Clearly, some insurance brands are handling the new story territory and relationship issues more adeptly than others. I’d love to hear which insurance companies–and which characters–strike a chord with you and what you think is really going on with these campaigns.

“Character gets to the heart of what good storytelling is all about. They’ve helped Wendy’s focus on what makes us unique, different and special and that’s helped us to get people’s attention, keep their interest and keep the business growing. We compete with much larger brands, but by being overt about how we want to attack those differences, we’ve been able to have a lot of tension and conflict in the story that we are telling. That allows us to keep the story fresh and to fuel it. The more we do that the more positive attention we get as a brand and the more the brand continues to grow, which, in turn, builds our confidence in our storytelling and keeps the courage level high.”

—Kurt  Kane, President U.S. & Chief Commercial Officer, Wendy’s Corporation

“I’ve been through Character’s story framework process four times in my career, and it has always added extraordinary value. It was a central piece of Walmart’s rebranding effort in 2006, as we sought a new articulation of our brand narrative and our purpose. It’s an equally powerful tool for us now, as Walmart defines its place in a rapidly transforming retail environment. And we are currently using it to do the same for Sam’s Club.”

—Tony Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart

“Since articulating our story framework, Gallo has had its best year. We’re up 10% and we’re outpacing the category. From a creative standpoint it’s been great because we’re all in alignment. Now that we have the articulation of our story, our social media, our partnerships, our programs, our packaging—it all makes sense.”

—Stephanie Gallo, Chief Marketing Officer, E&J Gallo Winery