In the last edition of The Brand Brief, I was a bit blunt in my dismissal of what I termed “overly earnest advertising.” The type of advertising that is ultra-sincere yet utterly devoid of brand personality. In closing, I opined that “advertising, if it has any hope of achieving long-term effectiveness, must reflect the personality of the brand as it sells.” Someone actually had the audacity to ask me just what in tarnation that statement means. Since that someone happens to be my editor, I feel inclined to answer.
One would think that in the wide, wacky world of advertising, finding an example of such work would not be difficult. And one would be correct. However, it is not quite as easy as flipping on the TV and refraining from hitting FF on the DVR. Because it turns out that advertising that truly reflects the personality of the brand is not so common.
Let’s take the consumer insurance industry. We happen to be living in the golden age of insurance advertising. Yes, it may only be 10K plated, but we’ve come a long way from the fear-based, we’re-all-gonna-get-in-car-wrecks-while-our-homes-burn advertising I recall from my youth. In general, the move to better advertising began with Geico. Some of their campaigns rank among my all-time favorites. But if I do business with Geico, do I expect their agents, or adjusters, or claims officers to reflect the personality of a cave man? No. A gecko? Well, maybe a little. Or just the campaign’s tone in general? Not so much. Similarly, Allstate’s “Mayhem” work is outstanding. But I’m not convinced the bulk of the company can pull off Dean Winters’ rakish charm. Perhaps that’s why they keep the more melodious Dennis Haysbert around for voice-over work.
I think both Geico and Allstate have benefited greatly by these campaigns. And I’d give the wisdom teeth I just had surgically removed to work on them. But we’re talking degrees of success here. And I think the current effort by Farmers Insurance beats the competition. Their campaign features famed character actor J. K. Simmons as the living embodiment of the brand. He’s equal parts knowledgeable, folksy, and supportive. He is never condescending. And, of course, the spots are entertaining. I can also picture them belonging to the same group, having the same motives, and demonstrating the same values as Simmons. The ads give me a sense that I might actually get a good company instead of just good marketing. And that is a combination that actually wins in the marketplace.
This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.