The Importance Of Strong Brand Positioning
Geico illustrates how challenger brands can quickly de-throne category leaders.
Do you remember when McDonald’s was “lovin’ it” as it recovered and passed by Burger King in the early 2000s, when Amazon cleared Borders’ shelves, or when Netflix canceled Blockbuster’s monthly subscription? Each of these brands dispatched their counterparts by “de-positioning” them in ways from which they could not recover.
While Allstate isn’t going anywhere, Geico accomplished something historic recently by overtaking Allstate in the hyper-competitive automotive insurance market. It represents a victory of positioning for the challenger brand and a seismic shift in the insurance category that demotes Allstate to the role of chasing, where once it was the one being chased.
In fact, in February we saw Allstate launch a campaign for its online “Geico/Progressive killer.” Esurance now claims that Geico’s “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” is far too slow for an auto insurance quote. John Krasinski narrates, “15 minutes for a quote is crazy. With Esurance, 7-and-a-half minutes could save you on car insurance. Welcome to the modern world.” Really? Allstate’s decision to challenge the time component—the 15 minutes—over the savings component—the 15%—misses the entire point of Geico’s successful brand positioning of helping you save money. In addition, by going after the time to quote for savings promise, Allstate validates Geico’s strategy in the first place—often a losing tactic for a challenger brand.
“When you have a singular brand focus and idea, customers have total clarity on what you are and what you are not.”
My friend, Professor Tim Calkins out of the Kellogg School of Management explains: “Geico is a perfect example of why positioning matters. Why buy from Geico? To save money. This is the core of the brand. Geico is a reputable company with low rates. Geico doesn’t promise the best service or the most complete coverage. It promises low rates.”
Why brand positioning is so important
To Tim’s point, when you have a singular brand focus and idea, customers have total clarity on what you are and what you are not. And to Geico’s credit, it has stayed true to the same brand positioning relentlessly for almost 20 years with arguably one of the longest-running call-to-action strategies and taglines in recent history. Because Geico hasn’t moved from its positioning, has stuck with a target segment that values price over paying for a traditional agent network model and has continued to beat a steady, relevant drum through a series of clever ads and characters—whether its cavemen, pigs, the gecko, banjo players or the newly minted camel of Hump Day fame—customers know exactly what to expect from Geico.
The need for brand relevance
Geico also realizes that consistent brand positioning and relevance must go hand in hand. So while the message has stayed the same, Geico’s advertising campaign tactics and medium usage have evolved. For example, in 2010, Geico provided mobile users with a first in the insurance industry — the ability to quote and buy a policy from mobile-friendly pages on their iPhone and Android mobile devices. Just recently, Geico was announced as the premier sponsor for the pilots of Amazon Studios’ new series, streaming on the Amazon Prime Instant Video service. It’s a wide-ranging ad deal that also includes banners and placement on the Amazon Pilot Series home page, as well as ads on Kindles with Special Offers, the cheaper version of the Kindle that shows ads. The expansion continues on new, relevant mediums but continues the “save you money” messaging.
Geico has also kept the conversation light, juxtaposed against Allstate’s darker Mayhem. Yes, the Mayhem campaign has a lot of ground to cover in auto, home and life and Dennis Haysbert’s booming voice reminds us how important insurance is. However, consumers continue to write the rules on how brands should be built. They need products and services that fit into their lives, with the price/value equations they are looking for, communicated in authentic, genuine and consistent ways. Geico has built a brand for these times and for the segments of the market that will help them drive disproportionate growth. And growth seems to be the key word when talking about Geico!
By the way, Geico is not always the cheapest. You are not truly trading price for service and you can actually get a quote in around three minutes, which is faster than Esurance’s new promise. And animals as spokespersons have a longer shelf life than humans.
Just ask the cavemen.
The best positioning finds a single idea that matters to its customers and sticks with it. For Geico, that meant low prices. Positioning is fixed. But it’s important to continually find new ways to keep it fresh, making sure it stays relevant to core audiences.