I’ve been thinking about GEICO lately. Not because I’m shopping for insurance, but because GEICO doesn’t give me any choice – – its advertising is in my face (and ears) constantly.
Which got me thinking: Marketing 101 says that there should be creative consistency in advertising, lest the message (and brand) become diluted or confused. But I can name at least a handful of concurrent campaigns (not counting infinite executions) for GEICO being used today. I bet you can, too.
– GEICO gecko – inescapable, multiple cross-media executions
– Happier Than (guys playing guitar/mandolin) – (“How happy are GEICO customers? – – happier than Eddie Money running a travel agency”, etc)
– Caveman (“so easy a caveman could do it”)
– Rhetorical (“Was Abe Lincoln honest?” Mary T. L.: “does this dress make my backside look big…”) (personal favorite)
– Maxwell the Pig
– And more. There’s even a Wikipedia entry dedicated to GEICO advertising
So what gives? Lots of quite different executions trying to sell basically the same product. Wouldn’t putting all weight behind one creative campaign (with freedom for infinite versions) make more sense? Well, 2 main reasons:
1) While the creative changes, the USP/ message is highly consistent. All roads lead to Rome, and all GEICO ads lead to “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on insurance.” They may be talking about a car, home, motorcycle, RV or whatever, but in the end the message is the same. And that’s what counts. While there might be a mixed read on what consumers recall creatively, I bet message recall (‘cheaper insurance’ or similar) would be very consistent.
2) At some point any advertising can reach a saturation/burnout stage, and familiarity, even with the most inventive creative, will breed contempt. So changing up the rotation, with the sort of weight GEICO deploys, works to its advantage. In addition, consistent use of humor (generally done well) lends a lightness to the proceedings that make the spots more tolerable.
– McDonald’s has a similar variety of campaigns, but they support different strategies (meal dayparts, seasonal favorites, dollar menu, new products, etc.).
– Big Auto uses similar weight/variety, but unfortunately much of the focus is on price and only a few have message consistency that endures over time (‘Ultimate Driving Machine’).
The only questionable tactic is recently identifying GEICO by its original name, Government Employees Insurance Co. Considering Congress’s abysmal approval rating (12%), one wonders what the expected gain would be.
Moral of the story: in advertising as in humans, up to a certain point weight is necessary; beyond that point one must be cautious.
On the other hand, I still haven’t invested in that 15-minute phone call…
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