The Power of Branding Through Catchy Advertising, GEICO Commercials

By Renee C. Quinn
February 24, 2011

Brand building can be defined as “Building the perceptions of your target audience.”  Those who work in marketing usually say that in order to really build your brand you need to be consistent in your marketing campaigns.  Consistency and repetition are a sure way to create a focused brand image and ingrain your message into the minds of those you are trying to reach.  However, Geico, has shown that, when done right, you can break the widely accepted and customary brand building “rules” often having numerous different iconic ad campaigns running at once. So today I’d like to discuss 5 of the more memorable GEICO ad campaigns beginning with the GEICO Gecko® through the most recently added Mike McGlone Commercials and analyze what your business can learn from these ad campaigns.

THE GECKO

The GEICO Gecko® (Voiced by actor Jake Wood) made it’s debut in 1999 during a Screen Actors Guild strike that prevented the use of live actors. In his first TV appearance, the Gecko took part in a press conference where he pleaded for people confusing “Gecko” with “GEICO” to stop phoning him.  Brian Carney is the actor who frequently plays the Gecko’s boss known only as “Sir” in commercials along the side of the Gecko.  The Gecko was voted America’s favorite advertising icon in 2005.

According to GEICO’s website,

The idea for the Gecko grew from a creative session at GEICO’s ad agency, the Martin Agency in Richmond, VA. The name “GEICO” was often mispronounced “Gecko,” and as the brainstorming began, a quick doodle of a gecko appeared. Successful ad campaigns from the past have proven animals create a strong connection between customers and companies. With this in mind, the Gecko came to life and made his debut during the 1999-2000 television season.

THE CAVEMEN

In August 2004, GEICO introduced the Cavemen to drive home the point that using Geico.com is “So easy a caveman could do it.”  GEICO tried to take advantage of the success of their Cavemen icons by creating a TV series that aired in the fall of 2007.  The series, simply titled Cavemen, was about three Neanderthals struggling to live in modern day America. The show however did not do so well (rated 4.3 out of 10 by IMDb) and was canceled after only six episodes.  Nonetheless, the Caveman was voted America’s favorite advertising icon of the year in 2008 and joined the GEICO Gecko on the Advertising Week Walk of Fame.

I'll have the Roast Duck with Mango Salsa!

GEICO CELEBRITY ADS

In July of 2006 the GEICO celebrity commercials were debuted where actual GEICO customers were paired with celebrities such as Little Richard, Charo and Joan Rivers.  In these commercials, the customer would recap his/her experience with Geico and the celebrity would add his/her spin on the story.

GOOGLY EYED KASH

GEICO’s Googly Eyed Kash which was created to emphasize “That’s the money that you could be saving with Geico,” made its debut in 2008 and was featured in commercials accompanied by a remake of the ‘80s Rockwell hit “Somebody’s Watching Me.”  

MIKE MCGLONE

Mike McGlone is the actor in the newest Geico ad campaign.  In the beginning of each of these commercials, McGlone asks, “Could switching to GEICO really save you 15% or more on car insurance?”  To which he answers with a rhetorical question.  One of my favorites is “Sarge,” which features R. Lee Ermey as a former drill sergeant turned therapist.  In this ad he asks, “Does a former Drill Sergeant make a terrible therapist?

In some of the other commercials in this campaign he asks questions such as, “Was Abe Lincoln honest?“, “Is having a snowball fight with pitching great Randy Johnson a bad idea?“,  “Can fútbol announcer Andres Cantor make any sport exciting?” and Did the little piggy cry wee, wee, wee all the way home?

Very few companies have the advertising budget that GEICO has.  But regardless, there are many things a small business can take away from the GEICO ad campaigns and implement it in their own ad campaigns.

REPETITION AND CONSISTENCY

First, and foremost are repetition and consistency.  These two go hand in hand.  Much like a baby learns to speak, repetition and consistency helps to reinforce your message and your brand.  Here’s a great example, when you hear, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz” what do you think of?  For most of you I did not even have to finish the jingle for you to remember that it was the Alka Seltzer jingle even though they have not used the jingle in quite some time.  When you hear “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” or “So easy a Caveman could do it” you automatically associate these lines with GEICO.  As a small business owner, you too can create a slogan or jingle of some kind and use it constantly and repetitively on your website, your blog, your business cards and stationary, in your print material, as part of your logo and so forth.  Consistent repetition is one of the best ways to help build your brand.  Any place you have your name, you will want to also have your slogan and/or logo.

SATURATION

The GEICO advertising campaign strategy is to saturate the market with print advertising, radio ads, and television advertisements.  No matter what channel you watch, what radio station you listen to or what newspaper and magazines you read, chances are there is at least one GEICO ad being used in that venue.  A small business owner obviously cannot saturate the market with advertisements as GEICO has, but what you can do is be visible in as many places as you can be.  Use social media to your benefit, blog about your industry, have a website with frequent updates and lots of searchable key terms and put links to your website, blog and social media profiles in the signature of your email. Finally, ALWAYS have a bunch of your business card with you and hand them out to everyone you meet, even if you’ve met them before.  They will do one of three things with them; keep it, give it away or throw it out.  What’s the saying?  “2 out of 3 ain’t bad!”  It amazes me how many people I meet at business functions who do not have business cards with them.

BROAD RANGE OF APPEAL

Next, GEICO knows its target audience and has created an ad campaign with a very broad range of appeal to those within their target market.  They have some more serious ads aimed at older drivers, and others that are the more humorous and/or unexpected ad campaigns that are designed for younger drivers.  As a small business owner it is imperative that you know who your target market is.   Are they online?  Do they use social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn?  Do they attend trade shows?  Ask yourself these questions and steer your marketing campaigns towards the vast majority of your target market audience.

DIFFERENTIATE

In order to succeed, you need to set yourself apart from your competition and stand out in the crowd.  GEICO uses very specific and memorable advertising icons to accomplish this.  As a small business, you can too.  Create a logo with an icon that is memorable, yet different from the others within your field.  Take our logo for example:  Most bloggers feature their photograph or simply their blog name as the header to their blogs.  Photographs are memorable and do put a personal spin to things, but a logo such as ours differentiates us from our “competitors.”  The logo is simple, the dog is memorable and the colors are catchy.  When people see our logo, they can immediately differentiate which blog is ours.

BE MEMORABLE THROUGH HUMOR

Finally be memorable and don’t be afraid to use humor.  Humor is so underrated when it comes to professional marketing campaigns.  Who says a professional cannot be funny?  Have you read our blog?!?!?  We’re hilarious!  OK maybe not hilarious, but we do use humor when it is suitable to the situation.  Don’t be afraid to use clean humor when you are marketing your small business.  People like to work with people they like.  If you know who your target audience is, then you can read your audience and cater to their personalities.

You don’t need to have a huge ad budget or have to spend a lot of money to accomplish what GEICO has on a much smaller scale.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself and have fun with your marketing campaign.  Keep in mind that as a small business you are your brand.  Ask yourself, what do I want others to think of when they think of me and develop your marketing strategy around the answer.

The Author

Renee C. Quinn

Renee C. Quinn is the Chief Operating Officer, Marketing Director and Business Manager for IPWatchdog, Inc. She has worked with IPWatchdog since April 2006, where she is in charge of all of the day to day, behind-the-scenes operations of IPWatchdog. She also handles all marketing and advertising inquires and is the first point of contact for IPWatchdog.

Renée holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Masters of Business Administration. She writes on various business and social media topics for IPWatchdog.com and is available to consult with individuals and businesses on how to set up and effectively use social media and social networking tools to establish a successful marketing campaign.

Click to contact Renee via e-mail.

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Discuss this

There are currently 2 Comments comments.

  1. Mike Mathews February 25, 2011 9:57 am

    Great article and interesting observations.

  2. Renee C. Quinn February 25, 2011 11:26 am

    Thank you Mike for your comments and thank you for reading IPWatchdog.

    Renee