Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Advertising Word of Mouth

With Esurance’s rebranding effort this year, they are no longer the company with the cartoon spy spokeswoman.

That campaign always confused me a bit. Being industry that essentially sells a commodity, auto insurance is keenly focused on branding. It’s responsible for some of the better ad campaigns in recent memory, such as Allstate’s “Mayhem”. Esurance’s ads, by contrast, just seemed misguided to me. I never saw the overlap between people shopping for insurance and people who would consider a relatively unknown brand based on corny, if brightly-colored, cartoons. Clearly I wasn’t alone.

In the last few months, Esurance has ditched the cartoons in favor of trying a few different styles of ads. The one I’ve seen most recently features voiceover work from The Office’s John Krasinski (a.k.a. Jim).

 This ad was right on the money for a Gen Y (and possibly the tail-end of Gen X) audience. It managed to poke subliminal fun at both their own prior cartoon ads and the Geico gecko. There was an excellent reference to a timely viral video. So far, pitch-perfect to my ear. But they did something else that interested me as well.

The ad appealed to viewers to follow the conversation about Esurance on social media. This is not the first time I’ve seen this tactic, but it is relatively new. It demonstrates a comfort with web 2.0 that is surprisingly still rare almost a decade after social media became wildly popular. I thought it was a great idea, until I actually took their advice.

A Twitter search for “esurance” yields a fair amount of talk, but not much of it is as glowing as the “awesome” or “rockin'” that Krasinski would have you believe. In fact, the majority of tweets I found were about Krasinski doing the ad voiceovers. 

@heatherhensley: love that esurance commercial because of john krasinski's sweet voiceThere were some positive mentions of the company, mostly revolving around saving money by switching, and a few negative ones. Those are to be expected. Their Facebook page has some positive content, but they admit to controlling the conversation there. All told, it just wasn’t the outpouring of consumer enthusiasm I was led to expect by the commercial. 

I decided to look at another company that has been running an ad with a similar message, aimed at a different audience.

Ask me about my Tempur-Pedic

The following commercial has been around for a couple years. It is clearly speaking to a 30+ audience, which is no surpise. Tempur-Pedic mattresses are not cheap. However, it also encourages viewers to check out the word of mouth buzz.

When I looked at their twitter results, the difference was dramatic. There were a good number of tweets from satisfied customers, and even more from people who wanted to own one. Clearly Tempur-Pedic has staked out a place for their brand online.

So why the difference?

What makes Tempur-Pedic succeed at backing up their word of mouth claims where Esurance hasn’t? 

It’s not the consumer. If their ads are any indication, Esurance’s branding is aimed squarely at the core of the social media demographic. If anything, Tempur-Pedic’s older consumer puts them at a slight disadvantage in this regard, though I have no good way to compare tweet volumes for each company (RIP Google Realtime).

In this case, I think it’s the product. As much as advertisers would like to think every brand can drive rich customer social buzz, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Auto insurance is one of those products that has no badge value for it’s users, i.e. they cannot show status by using one insurance company versus another. There are only two contexts in which most people would think about their insurance: Shopping for it, which might generate some “I saved $X!”-type tweets, or when something bad happens to their car. Even in the latter case, I have a hard time believing many people would be tweeting about their insurance versus, say, “OMGZ I just got rear-ended!” Tempur has an advantage in this regard.

A Tempur-Pedic mattress is still just a mattress, which isn’t t00 exciting either. However, it is enough of a departure from a traditional spring mattress that it may be worth talking about. That would be especially true if it provides a consumer a different experience than a traditional mattress. Going back to badge value, it is a high-end product, and its users are a somewhat exclusive group. However, it is not a BMW. The only way to conspicuously consume a mattress is to tell people about it. These ideas seem to shape how the conversations about each product play out in the “real world” of Twitter.

I love the idea of mentioning social buzz in paid advertising. It shows customer orientation as well as an understanding that brands are no longer “owned,” in the old school mass media sense. However, some products are better suited for this tactic than others, and advertisers and agencies would do well to research and think this out beforehand.

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.