I get giddy when a brand flies in the face of conventional wisdom and breaks the “best practices” rules established by marketing pundits. First, let me say I loathe the term “best practices.” It reminds me of consultant speak and in the end, it essentially means playing it safe by doing what everyone else is doing. Yawn.
When it comes to the representation of a brand, boxed-in best practices would have you believe a single iconic representation is the right thing to do. This has certainly proven a smart yet safe strategy for many brands. From the Enegizer Bunny to Tony The Tiger to the Jolly Green Giant to the Pillsbury Dough Boy, these brands have seen success through leveraging a single icon over many decades. Well, GEICO clearly doesn’t give a lizard’s tail what other brands have done.
Not only is GEICO leveraging three brand icons at once, the personalities of these icons could not be more different. And, one might argue that the icons they have chosen are not necessarily representative of the attributes you would want to communicate the brand essence of an insurance company.
The GEICO Gecko is a humble, endearing, guy-next-door kind of character who lately spends most of his time trying to survive the mishaps and ideas of a overly corny, unoriginal GEICO executive. Given the similarities between the words “GEICO” and “gecko” the brand wasn’t taking as big a risk as Aflac did when they choose a hapless, annoying duck as its brand icon. The gecko character along with the call to action of “fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance” was very successful. Most brands would have stayed the course for decades leveraging this single icon. Not GEICO. Somewhere in the land of “dare to be different,” they decided creating a neanderthal as a brand icon was going to be their next move. Even more interesting was that they chose not to replace the gecko but to add it as second icon which I’m sure sent the marketing know-it-alls into a green tailspin. Can you imagine how many employees fought this decision? Can you imagine how many pundits predicted this brand strategy would fall flat?
As everyone knows, the GEICO Cavemen live in today’s world and appear to be fitting in until they encounter and insulting ad stating “GEICO: so easy a caveman could do it.” The cavemen couldn’t be further from the personality of the gecko in that they are somewhat cocky, desperately seeking hipness, definitely not cute and in need of a wax. But it worked. It broke the best practices brand rules and thrived in spite of it.
So now they have the gecko and the cavemen. They took a risk and it paid off. However, instead of breathing a sigh of relief and high fiving each other until the geckos come home, in a Sybil-like move, GEICO decides to introduce a third icon to the brand lineup. But it is not just the addition of this incremental icon that is so surprising, it’s that they chose to make the icon a creepy, voyeuristic pile of cash with eyes. Seriously, the peeps at GEICO must flip the bird day in and day out to anyone who says “best practices.” Known as GEICO Kash, the icon always appears with the line “the money you could be saving.” More money, more messaging. From “15 minutes…” to “so easy..” to “money…saving…” GEICO votes consistency off the island quicker than Gatorade drop-kicked Tiger.
And oh by the way, in addition to the ads that run the three icons cited above, GEICO is executing “Rhetorical Question” and “Talking Objects” ads as well. While not as icon driven, the ads add more messaging and complexity to the brand.
Hats off to The Martin Agency for not only identifying a complex, multi-tiered brand strategy, but for getting a bunch of insurance execs to buy off on it. That feat is certainly not so easy that a caveman could do it.
Who is your favorite GEICO personality?
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