I just wanted to write and say: I get it.
I. GET. IT.
You sell car insurance. I KNOW.
15 minutes could save me 15% of more on my car insurance. O-K-A-Y.
If there is a better example of the power of advertising, I don’t know what it is. You are running not one, but three campaigns simultaneously and have grown your sales by roughly a billion dollars a year since 2001. Last year you spent over $750 million in advertising. Heck, that’s more that Barack Obama and he only did it for one year. With you it never stops.
It never, ever stops.
Repetition is rule number one for successful advertising and to achieve this you have developed your savings message into a three-headed campaign: a witty lizard with a British accent, a very sensitive caveman, and most recently a wad of cash with eyes, which is, you explain persistently, the money I could be saving with you. (I hear his official nickname is “Kash.”) I can’t detect any obvious demographic or psychographic targeting within these approaches, just three funny, memorable ideas running at the same time. Your current and past campaigns are so good, they have been parodied in ways that essentially repeat your message millions of more times for free, especially the “But I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance” line.
I found out you’ve been around forever. Started in 1936 as the Government Employees Insurance Company. In the 70s you started selling insurance to the general public. In 1996, you were bought by Berkshire Hathaway. BINGO! King Midas himself, Warren Buffett, is behind your relentless success. That same year, you spent $31 million on advertising. In 2004, over $500 million and Mr. Buffett said, “I can’t wait to spend more.” He did and it’s working; you now have over 10 million policyholders and are highly profitable.
I would venture to say that every man, woman and child knows who you are and what you are promising. Even my dog is starting to get the idea, and she’s not that bright.
And yet I have never called you. Not once. Never saved the number or clicked on a link. Why is that? I wonder myself. Maybe it’s because in spite of all your clever, entertaining ads, I still don’t believe you. Sure, I might save some money, but what would I be getting? I was so unsure, I conducted a completely unscientific study of consumers by asking a bunch of people I know if they had ever called GEICO, and if not why not. The answer? They didn’t call because they don’t trust your product.
No one doubted your message of savings, although a few noted that other companies make similar claims. But several said there was a sense that yours is “cheap” insurance and that if they needed to make a claim, it might not be a good experience.
So I would like to make a suggestion:
You have every right to tell me about your insurance company as often as you possibly can. And I don’t think you’ve missed many opportunities. But, perhaps, now that you’ve tattooed your message of potential savings on my cerebral cortex, you could add a little proof of good service to your parade of messages. I know you tried something like this with that celebrities-restating-the-comments-of-real-customers campaign, including Little Richard and Peter Graves. But it was one of your rare flops. A series of spots called “The Serious Side of GEICO” with your lizard in a suit also has failed to get the message across that we can trust you.
If anybody can do it, it’s you and your talented partner, The Martin Agency, who has been producing this steady stream of entertaining and effective spots since 1994. It will be a difficult task since human minds prefer basic ideas and are trained to resist messages that go against accepted principles such as Lower Cost=Lower Quality. Having established one message as well as any brand since Marlboro, you will now have to convince us that savings and service can go hand in hand. That is, if you would like to gain another billion in sales each year.
Like Kash, I’ll be watching you. It’s not as though I have any choice.