Creative Opportunity #52: A way to get better at creative strategy

“I’d like to be better at it. But I’m jammed at work all day. No time.”

Do you ever watch TV? Commercial TV? I watch the commercials. Honest to God. When someone tries to speed through them via the DVR, I may ask to stop on something that looks new. And here’s what I do:

In my mind I try to reverse engineer the creative strategy. I try to figure out the creative strategy behind the creative. Right now I’m sure you’re thinking – “This guy’s fun at parties.”

Kidding aside, it’s my business: creative strategy.

Who would have ever thought the insurance category would have creative as diverse and interesting as it is today? GEICO’s “It’s What You Do,” Allstate’s “Mayhem,” Progressive’s “Flo,” State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor.” All very different but very effective in their own way.

So, what is the creative direction – the creative strategy – behind each of these? What is the competitive set, what demographic group are they pursuing, what’s going on in the world of the target that the advertising is trying to suggest the company will help with, how does that target think about the insurance category, what perceptions does the target have about the brand that the advertising tries to overcome, what’s the emotional benefit the advertising is trying to convey, what does the brand do or offer to provide that benefit?

For GEICO (and btw, did you know that stands for the Government Employees Insurance Co? Yep.), I think it’s all about a fear of insurance and feeling like an insurance carrier is going to make it so confusing that you can’t trust them. GEICO? Friendly. Funny. Warm. They couldn’t sell you a fast, slick policy even if they knew how. It’s about making a friend.

Allstate’s Mayhem (they have a parallel campaign running with actor Dennis Haysbert that is more directly about Allstate offerings) seems focused on – we can’t control what’s out there, so we need good insurance to protect us from it. It feels as if the strategy is really selling the category of insurance, sponsored by Allstate.

“Flo” from Progressive; if I remember right, it feels as if she started not as this big idea that has evolved into 100-plus commercial, but as the checker in the Progressive store. I think the store was more the idea – a way to present Progessive product and pricing. The actress – Stephanie Courtney – was/is so good that she has evolved into the representation of the brand. And, I believe, that has evolved the strategy. I think it is now more like what GEICO is doing – creating a likable, approachable brand from something cold called “Progressive.”

And State Farm. Like a good neighbor. My God, how do you tell that story in a new way after I don’t know how many years? First of all, this work is to make the State Farm agents happy. They are the front line of that brand. They are the people that you are about to trust with your insurance needs. So, ultimately it’s about targeting people (again) who feel that insurance has some bad stuff associated with it. In this case, people who feel that insurance companies abandon them when they need to use the policy. State Farm? Never. The competitive set is clear. The mindset of the audience. The emotional benefit. The rational offering (like your neighbor).

There is more detail that could be discussed. But yes, I sit around and do this with advertising. It helps me be better at developing creative strategy. And among our peers, it’s actually interesting to discuss. But, trust me, at a party with people outside of communications, don’t try it.

Create opportunities for better creative. Go to Get Better Creative and learn about the workshop where, in one day, your team will become marketing communications rock stars. Talk with Dave Hamel, Principal of Get Better Creative and lead of the American Marketing Association’s “Successfully Managing the Creative Process” about getting better creative: 312.623.5567