Geico Un-Boring Insurance with Ted Ward and John Adams

October 15, 2010

By Guest Blogger Hannah Cho, Cisco Systems, Inc.

Day two of the ANA Masters of Marketing conference and the morning had some really great speakers, including Ted Ward, CMO and VP of Marketing at Geico with John Adams, Chairman and CEO of The Martin Agency. They presented together covering Geico's marketing history and future and it was nice to get a holistic (hahaha, everyone hates that marketing buzz word and I used it!) view of Geico's campaigns.

First of all, how cute is that Gecko!!! His name is Gary, did you know that? I found it so cool to know that Gary was born on a napkin in a bar from an idea to create a company icon that wasn't a five-letter text block. 

Okay, back to my commentary about the presentation. Geico's seven discoveries over the years are pretty straightforward, but I'll recap them for you anyway (they were delivered by both Ted and John, who heads up Geico's agency):

  1. Don't forget why you were drawn to this business in the first place.  There aren't a lot of maverick marketers in the insurance business, but Ted happens to be one of them and he has stayed true to his wild ways (must be a part of his parole officer past).
  2. Sometimes they know what I need before I do (that was Ted referring to his agency).  Enough said.
  3. The problem with a singular focus is that it's singular.  This was an interesting discovery that John shared and I'll get into this idea more below.
  4. Don't forget the other USP (unique selling proposition AND unique selling PERSONALITY). That's right, a brand should have a personality!  
  5. Lightning strikes vs. Easter Eggs.  It's about the moments of genius versus planting seeds along the journey (like Easter eggs).
  6. It's not all about ads, it's about assets. The fastest growing insurance company in the last five years does heavy brand promotions on just about everything!  Think about the last time you saw Gary the was probably on some sort of merchandising material.
  7. If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right. Based on Geico's campaigns, I would say they are having lots of fun. And based on their business results, they seem to be doing it right.

Ok, so the big thing that I found interesting in this presentation was the concept that the human brain is capable of taking in more than we ever thought possible. John did a comparison of Dragnet to 24. The plot of Dragnet was relatively simple, and then in 24, you get into multiple storylines, plot twists and resolutions and people get it. They really get it! And so, Geico's five simultaneous campaigns are born. The brilliance lies not only the creative executions of the caveman, Kash (the google-eyed stack of money), celebrity testimonials, and of course, Mike McGlone but that each of the campaigns address "15 minutes to save you 15% or more."

Each campaign is a strategic focus area for Geico, whether it be around saving money (their big value proposition), their claims service or their online website, Gary the Gecko (at least that's what he was called on the napkin), is the unique exception in that he is not about addressing Geico's business, but rather, he is the company's personality! Very few companies can actually do this well—read the Forbes article from March 2010 that talks about the value of a spokescreature vs. a spokesperson. 

It's also really great that Geico tests in-market and can see the results of their testing from real consumers. Instead of using test/focus groups or research, they go out and try things. And use what sticks! Now, I understand that not all companies have the budget to do that sort of thing, but I'll bet that's not typical in the insurance industry-another thing that makes Ted such a maverick!

Ted ended with one simple sentence, "Sales overnight, brand over time." I like it. I like it a lot. Become a fan of Geico on Facebook at, or better yet, just become a fan of the caveman, it's so simple that...well, you know...


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