What Is GEICO Selling?

 

It seems that, no matter what I watch on TV, I am bombarded with GEICO spots. I know GEICO wants to sell me insurance, but what do I want to buy?

I’ve yet to watch one of this third-largest car-insurance giant’s quirky, inexplicable commercials and then purchase any of its products. Why? They annoy me. They don’t speak to me. They don’t move me. They elicit negative emotions. This is bad branding.

GEICO has assets of $24.4B and spends at least $300M annually on advertising. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns the company. All impressive. But, I posit that GEICO’s advertising “works” to the extent that it exhausts the viewers with overexposure, not because it lures or resonates with them.

This can mean only one thing: Warren Buffett is inefficiently overspending investors’ money on GEICO advertising.
 
Who Am I?

I’m certain the GEICO execs are unhappy with their ineffective spots because of the frequency with which they change themes. Apparently, the mantra at its Washington-area headquarters is: If it’s broke, fix it constantly — that’s Washington for you. So, they jump from one confusing theme to the next. Here are four of those themes, which have nothing perceptible in common:

  • Lizard
  • Googly eyes on stack of paper money
  • Celebrity/regular-citizen interviews
  • Cavemen

 

 
Currently, GEICO is running the lizard and googly-eyes spots simultaneously. I am not a lizard. My money doesn’t have eyes. I won’t take financial advice from Little Richard. And, I’m not a caveman — most of the time, anyway. So, what does GEICO want me to think and feel when I see these spots? Who am I? What do I need? What is GEICO selling????

Frankly, I don’t have a clue.
 
Good Branding Is Crystal Clear

I wrote in a previous article that, while advertising may be entertaining, it never should be entertainment. GEICO’s advertising is clearly entertainment — it doesn’t work, conveys no brand, and I don’t identify with it personally. These are critical violations of the principles I laid out in “Do They Understand Your Brand?”

The GEICO Website claims the company is selling excellent coverage, low prices, and outstanding customer service. How does that differ from what most insurance companies purvey? It doesn’t. Good branding is always crystal clear. GEICO’s forever-changing messaging is as clear as mud.
 
Rx from The WhiteNoise Doctor™

I will know what GEICO is selling, and will know that GEICO knows what it’s selling, when its TV commercials reflect that — in 15 seconds. I just don’t relate to talking lizards and other gimmicks. So, at such time that GEICO’s spots speak to me and move me, I will take action. Until then, I’m not switching to GEICO.

 

About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.

 

© 2009 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

 

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2 Responses to “What Is GEICO Selling?”

  1. cashwhisperer says:

    Marc,

    The ads are not aimed at you but are symptomatic of the new trend of hyper target marketing. The lizard has kind of headed off onto a tangent, but the people being stalked by the money they “COULD have saved by switching” at least conveys a benefit to the customer.

    Capital One runs multiple campaigns at the same time also, each aiming at a different target. You’ll notice that Capital One spends 90% of its time talking about what their competition does wrong, not what they do right.

  2. Marc Rudov says:

    Your statement that GEICO's ads are not aimed at me proves my point, which you are missing.

    It is not my job, as a consumer, to figure out what the advertisers want me to know, feel, think, or do — THEY must do that heavy lifting for me: clearly, crisply, succinctly, and compellingly. They don't, and that's why they fail to create & build their brands.