"If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done." -- Drina Reed
This quote is Pinterest porn but, in marketing, it can also be a bit of a paradox. When an industry succeeds moving in one direction, it can be hard to justify diverting from their path. Yet more than one CMO takes this quote to heart and unveils a plan that goes against the current.
Their goal may be to re-establish the brand or to reach aggressively beyond incremental results. And the trades use words like bold, visionary and innovative to describe these CMOs -- until some of their plans don't succeed.
The trades then suggest that, when an entire industry goes in one direction, wasn't it obvious to the brand it was wandering off the path?
Auto Insurance's Character Nation
Take the auto insurance category for example. The image above shows spokespeople from (top to bottom, left to right): Geico, Progressive, Farmer's Insurance, State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide and SafeAuto. To be fair, at least three of the above spokespeople have been retired.
From the old to the new, each spokesperson's narrative has been entertaining at one point or another, in aggregate like this it looks like a sea of sameness. In an industry where price can commoditize your product, it makes it even more critical to differentiate the brand through advertising.
So why are some of the brand's with the highest awareness in the category mirroring its competitors approach to advertising? We can assume it sells policies.
But Liberty Mutual has taken an altogether different direction, focusing on content marketing to broaden the conversation with its audience to create a more sustainable, long-term relationship.
The Responsibility Project
Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project doesn't follow a “character-focused” narrative — like the bulk of its competitors. These characters, and their back stories, can be entertaining, but it takes more than a brand’s latest ad campaign to create, and sustain, ongoing consumer engagement. No matter how popular the campaign, consumers will eventually lose interest.
Liberty Mutual’s content focuses on “what it means to do the right thing.” The site quickly notes the right thing isn’t always black and white. This statement helps humanize Liberty Mutual. It's a path beyond using a spokesperson to create the emotional connection — and it helps prompt a discussion.
It may take some time to weigh in on whether or not Liberty Mutual's efforts make a business impact. But I'll argue that when a brand swims against the current, it takes longer to make progress.