Three Ingredients for a Great Ad

A Geico Analysis

By Cynthia Herr

Good marketing campaigns are ones that consumers can recall, but great marketing campaigns become a part of consumers’ lives and the public lexicon. 

There have been countless great marketing campaigns over the years, numerous commercials that have made us laugh, and a plethora of taglines that have been seared into consumers’ minds. In the 1980s it was Wendy’s ‘Where’s the Beef?’, and in the late 1990s it was Budweiser’s ‘Wassup?’  Yet few brands have managed to consistently crank out great campaigns that last over time.

Geico, however, has been doing this ever since it first disrupted insurance advertising nearly twenty years ago. It was 1999 when we first met the gecko and learned how 15 minutes could save us 15% or more on car insurance. In the recent Best of Geico campaign, Geico has been revisiting its greatest hits, reengaging consumers and driving traffic to its website—all with recycled material that still works.

What is it about the Geico ads that have enabled them to have such lasting power? How is it that a 15-year-old ad can still be part of an effective brand strategy and resonate with consumers a second time around?

There are three important reasons:

Reason #1

Geico has relied on a simple, always relevant brand promise of ease and savings. Take a few minutes; save money–easy as that. The Geico advertising spots may be over-the-top, and we may be left scratching our heads over what a dead possum has to do with anything, but yet—or perhaps even because of this—their simple brand message rings through loud and clear in each ad.

Reason #2

Not only is the message simple, but Geico has remained true to it over the years. Geico has leveraged one of the longest-running taglines and call-to-action strategies in history, resulting in a recall rate of 90%. The campaign may seem erratic; Geico has launched ad after ad, often with multiple ads at once. One day it’s camels, the next day collect calls, and the next day a pig hanging out a car window screaming “wee, wee, wee” all the way home. And yet the core message has not changed; the tagline has never wavered. Keeping it fresh doesn’t have to mean big changes; in fact, consistency in messaging can actually enable creativity and innovation.

Reason #3

In what was once an arguably boring, even solemn industry, Geico has provided clever content that has brought the brand to the water cooler. It got us talking. It got us laughing aloud. It got us caring about silly characters. Insurance may not have much to do with cavemen and squirrels, but Geico uses these lovable characters perfectly to provide a funny anecdote that brings the brand promise to life – which is what keeps people rushing to YouTube to watch these characters, again and again.

With these three basic principles in mind, companies can create engaging marketing content with lasting power. Keep the promise simple. Stay consistent. Make them laugh. It’s so easy, even a caveman can do it.

Reach out to Cynthia Herr to discuss your branding needs.