My colleague, Johnny “FM” Molson, recently wrote that “most people don’t know most businesses.”

For example, how many brands of hearing aids can you name?

You and I are happily oblivious to almost all the so-called “brands” in any category that we don’t routinely shop.

And that goes double for what I’d call Ugly Ducking Businesses.

Yet there are exceptions. Take insurance.

You’ve likely only shopped insurance a few times in your life, yet you can easily name a half-dozen insurance brands. Why?


Every major insurance firm runs a heavy-duty, well-crafted, TV branding campaign. To include:

  • The GEICO Gecko (and Caveman)
  • Allstate’s Mayhem
  • Progressive’s Flo
  • Jake From State Farm
  • Liberty Mutual’s Limu Emu
  • The “We Are Farmer’s” campaign with J.K. Simmons

So what can we learn from that?

To Compete with Great Advertising You Need Your Own Great Advertising

The major insurance houses brand with passion ‘cause they can’t afford not to.

If they sat on the sidelines while their competition dominated the Mental Availability and Top of Mind Awareness game, they’d go out of business.

So, if you don’t have any competition running great branding ads, you could wait until they do and then be forced to respond…

Or you could launch your campaign before the competition.

I recommend the latter, ‘cause branding into a messaging “blue ocean” is far easier than having to fight it out in a red ocean of persuasive advertising.

That said, if you are forced to enter that red ocean, it’s better to do so sooner rather than later — and with the highest impact ads you can muster.

Long Buying Cycles Greatly Benefit From Great Branding

Most people associate heavy-duty branding with what the industry calls “Fast Moving Consumer Goods” (FMCG)

Think soft drinks, chips, soaps, fast food, beer, detergents — stuff people buy every week or several times a week.

Coca-Cola certainly does spend a lot on advertising.

Yet branding is even MORE important for products and services with longer buying cycles, bought far less frequently.

Lose a burger sale to a competitor, and you’ll have another chance at selling to that customer later that week.

Lose a roof or AC sale to a competitor, and you won’t have another chance with that customer for fifteen years.

Lose a barn sale, and it’ll be fifty years.

So for long buying cycles, it pays to pre-convince customers before they ever need what you sell, as the cost for reaching them too late is so high.

Conversely, successfully boxing the competition out of consideration hurts them dearly — and profits you even more.

For these reasons, insurance companies know that they have to be on your shortlist, or they’ll lose you as a customer, perhaps for decades. That makes a strong branding campaign a must-have.

If you also have a business with a long buying cycle, it’ll pay to follow suit.

Interesting Characters Make For The Strongest Messaging

Pretty much all of the insurance branding campaigns star and spotlight strong, identifiable characters.

Think of the GEICO Gecko (or caveman), Flo, Mayhem, Jake From State Farm, and the Limu Emu.

Heck, even Farmers has the recognizable spokesperson of J.K. Simmons

There are multiple reasons for this, but the top two are:

  1. Interesting characters are dynamite entertainment and ensure better audience engagement.
  2. People bond with people faster and more easily than with faceless corporations.

Since 95% to 99% of your ads’ audience won’t be in the market for what you sell, your ads will need to offer entertainment to capture and keep their attention.

Fortunately, characters and character-driven storytelling is the best and most surefire way to provide that entertainment.

And this is especially the case for an episodic or serialized content, such as a TV campaign.

Look at any movie franchise or novel series and you’ll see: people may come for the plot, but they stay for the characters.

You go to a James Bond film to watch James Bond, after all; the plot is secondary. Works the same for branding ads with strong characters.

And not only do the characters engage the audience, they help foster trust in the company.

This works fine with fictional characters, as the insurance campaigns demonstrate, but it works even better for business owners as spokesman, such as Frank Perdue and Gert Boyle.

So if you’ve got a strong Origin Story, you really ought to be telling it — through your mass media advertising.

What’s Your Buying Cycle? And What’s Your Plan for Winning It?

Whether you’re selling burgers or bookkeeping, you’ll want a plan for winning over prospective customers whenever they DO need what you sell.

And it boils down to this:

    1. If they’re not aware of you…
    2. If they don’t think of you when they need what you sell…
    3. If they don’t think well of you…
    4. If you’re not easy & pleasant to do business with, and…
    5. If you don’t make & close the sale when the customer calls or shows up, then…

… you’ll lose the sale.

If you wish to win the sale, you’ll need to make sure each step is in good working order.

And nothing on Earth is so effective at improving the first three steps as a character and story-driven, long-term branding campaign.

If you’d like to launch or reboot your business’s story-driven branding campaign, I’d be happy to help.