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The Mascots of Marketing

In Ad Corner, we’ll take a look at famous advertising campaigns. We’ll analyze what they did and how we can apply those same principles to small business advertising.

You’ve seen them. You know them by name. Mascots. Over the years, many businesses have utilized mascots as a way to promote their brand. From Ronald McDonald to the Pillsbury Dough Boy, from Mr. Peanut to Tony the Tiger, and from the Jolly Green Giant to the Michelin Man, mascots have been a part of the advertising world for decades. They are fun, personable, and memorable characters that represent all different types of brands, products, and services. Today we’re going to look at 3 examples of contemporary mascots and how they have helped to shape insurance marketing.

Mascot #1 – The GEICO Gecko

If you’ve ever seen a GEICO ad, you’re already aware of how funny and strange they tend to be. In 1999, the GEICO Gecko made his advertising debut during a strike held by the Screen Actors Guild that prevented GEICO from using a live actor. An animated character made for a clever workaround during the strike, and the gecko himself made for an even more clever tie-in to the company. By playing off of the similar-sounding words, GEICO was able to create a memorable association for their audience. The GEICO Gecko ended up being such a success that he has gone on to star in over 150 advertisements.

Mascot #2 – Flo (Progressive)

Not to be outdone by amphibian counterparts, Progressive began airing ads with Flo in 2008. She has since become an advertising icon, as memorable and recognizable as the gecko himself. She has appeared in over 100 advertisements, and her long-standing presence has made room for more characters to appear and re-appear in Progressive ads, like Kitty, Jamie, and Mara. Flo has been featured as a downloadable character on a video game and has been a popular choice for a Halloween costume since 2009. While the name association does not exist in the same way for Progressive as it did for GEICO, Progressive has still been able to establish a strong memorable association through their mascot.

Mascot #3 – Jake from State Farm

For our third mascot example, we have Jake from State Farm. He made his technical first appearance in 2011, as part of a different advertising campaign. The Jake we see on more recent commercials is portrayed by a different person. The original Jake from State Farm was not a trained actor but was actually a State Farm employee. Due to the ad’s popularity, State Farm decided to bring Jake back as a recurring character in 2020 and they needed to hire a trained actor for the role (cue Kevin Miles, the Jake we see on ads now). Much like Flo, Jake from State Farm has been a popular Halloween costume and has helped people remember State Farm as an insurance option. While he’s technically a little newer to the insurance mascot scene, he’s still a well-known name among viewers.

Bonus Example – NJM Insurance

You probably already noticed that all of these examples have been for insurance companies. There is something to be said about marketing in similar ways as your competitors. There’s also something to be said about breaking the mold and doing something different, which is exactly what NJM Insurance has done. They poke fun at their competitors by calling mascots “gimmicks” and by implying that they don’t need to rely on that because their service is better. Gimmick or not, all three of the mascots we’ve discussed have proved to be successful over the years. NJM, with their “No Jingles or Mascots,” is certainly making itself known in the now-mascot-saturated insurance market as well.

What We Can Learn

By looking at these example mascots (and one example of no mascot), we can see the power behind a recognizable character. The GEICO Gecko creates a strong bond between the two words, using a term (“gecko”) that we’re more familiar with to help us remember their company name (“GEICO”) that we might otherwise struggle to remember. Progressive’s Flo has given us a fun, upbeat character to parody for Halloween, starting conversations on Progressive’s behalf (whether we realized it or not). And, finally, Jake from State Farm has done a little bit of both: giving us a fun character and a strong name recall. Mascots are, undoubtedly, a tour de force in the marketing world. We can also see, from NJM’s example, that bucking trends set by your competitors can be another good way to grab some attention.

Wanna make a mascot?

Bold River Marketing can help you market your small business. We’ll work together with you to make a brand that customers can remember (with or without a mascot). Give us a call today for more information!

If you enjoyed this, check out our first Ad Corner post about 3 advertising campaigns that influenced American culture.