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This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.
When it comes to the tremendous power of mascots and characters as mechanisms for achieving instant brand recall, there’s perhaps no other category which does it better than American insurers. From life guru lizards to death-defying stuntmen to breakdancing poultry; you name it, they’ve done it. It’s a wonderful testament to creativity not solely being the domain of tech, fast food, and packaged goods brands, with high levels of emotional engagement absolutely possible in what is traditionally considered a ‘low engagement’ category.
It’s true that consumers aren’t generally filled with lots of joy when forced to think about things like protecting their house and car from flood, fire, and other unexpected damage. However, this doesn’t also mean conforming to category expectations is going to yield profitable outcomes for brands. Enter Progressive insurance, a brand which pioneered flipping category conventions on their head and going against the grain, turning ordinary, monotonous topics into something a little more exciting and lighthearted. Humor and brand mascots in particular have been central to the brand’s success.
The brand’s lovable lead character Flo has graced our screens since 2008, with her affable yet sincere demeanor acting as not only a recognizable cue to the brand, but also a shortcut to emotional appeal. Off the back of her success Progressive have continued to take a character-first approach, with Dr. Rick the latest character to be added to the mix.
With the goal of stopping new homeowners from developing the same embarrassing habits as their parents, Dr. Rick has been stepping in to provide a helping hand. The latest chapter in the series sees him attempt to educate new homeowners about the intricacies of social media, culminating in the point that ‘while Progressive can’t save you from social media pitfalls like Dr. Rick, it can help save you money if you bundle your insurance’ — a consistent thread across the wider campaign.
The steadfast approach has seen the brand develop another familiar asset in Dr. Rick, who — coupled with the ad’s satirical tone — is now highly synonymous with the brand. The amusing character, plot, and relatable theme all culminated in the ad eliciting a good level of emotional appeal.
However, the underlying message in the Social Listening installment didn’t land exactly as hoped. The idea that Progressive can help save you money was somewhat overshadowed, with the connection between what Dr. Rick can do versus what Progressive can offer not overly clear or motivating.
While this provides a reminder of the importance of tying together humor with the ad’s key message in a clear and coherent way, plaudits must still be given to Progressive for its admirable consistency. With all the available evidence around the power of characters and distinctive assets for achieving advertising success, it’s something many brands from adjacent categories could learn a lot from.