Thursday, February 19, 2009

Geico Gecko - a strategy which makes sense

When a green reptile, friendly or otherwise, tries to influence your decision about something as major as car-insurance, you may not take him seriously. But over the years, the Geico Gecko has done just the opposite and has grown to become the third-largest personal auto insurer in the US. The lizard struck the right chord with the target demo, so much so, that it was voted America's favorite advertising icon in 2005.

The campaign scored on brand recall. What could be more recognizable than a bright green lizard talking jauntily with a distinctly British accent?
But now the stakes are higher. There are financially unstable companies all round. Which is why Geico's longtime agency, the Martin Agency (part of the Interpublic Group of Companies), has unleashed a secret weapon that can make a great impact in today's market. The latest campaign is all about how Geico is owned by none other than Berkshire Hathaway. And yes, the brand message makes ample use of Mr Warren Buffet himself.

From the New York Times of Feb 18, 2009: According to Ted Ward, vice president for marketing at Geico - “The strategy for this is driven by the need to emphasize to people there’s a way to save money without risking hitting stability, trust, the right things to be talking about in this environment."
"It becomes a little more interesting that we’re a piece of this really, really solid company,” he added, referring to Berkshire Hathaway. “There are not many triple-A-rated companies left in the world; it doesn’t hurt we’re one of them.”"

What also doesn't hurt is the Geico Gecko's confident persona, which is why it is far more acceptable than any other campaign clouded by financial worries. I mean, how can anyone not smile at a talking lizard spouting financial wisdom wearing no pants or even a suit for that matter? A point made in some of its recent ads, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner. In one spot, the Geico Gecko is given a tiny suit coz' "Looking a bit more businesslike might help."
The recent strategy to incude the Buffet name is one of the many moves of this insurance giant, most of which have served it well. What also helps Geico is that it delivers on its promises. I know because I use it. Finally, it is all about the product. But advertising when done right can breathe life into a good product and make it a brand to reckon with. Advertising will not create a brand benefit, it will simply convey it to the right audience, effectively. On the other hand, as William Bernbach said "A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it's bad."

If you are in the mood for a laugh, check out two of the spots at

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