In a novel exercise that is one part mobile app beta-test and one part clever branding, State Farm is looking for 5000 people to download its RightLane Android app for testing. The company is trying to see how much driving information it can collect accurately without the plug-in devices that are commonplace among some insurance providers or other in car-checking devices like OnStar.
The testers need only to have an Android phone running version 4.0 or greater and Bluetooth factory installed in their car. The test period is 120 days and requires at least 500 miles of driving over 25 of those days.
The app has a number of provisions and assurances, such as telling State Farm insurance holders that any data gleaned by this app will not be used to influence their own insurance rates. The data is being used in aggregate to understand app usage and aggregated driver behavior, and to validate data collection. Data on individual drivers is not analyzed.
Testers can get a $50 gift certificate for their trouble. State Farm's Dar Hakimi, director, Innovation & Strategic Resources, tells me that the company is trying to understand a range of driving scenarios, from in town to highway to short trips and long trips as well as different traffic situations. They will be using an Android app to do what a lot of telematics tools already do with separate devices: miles driven, time of day, speed, acceleration, cornering.
But there is also a branding piece to this and an attempt to recruit customers into the development process in a more public way. “Customer experience in the beta test will be key in helping us shape future product offerings,” says Hakimi. “Overall results may be used for a variety of new technologies we are looking at in the automotive space.”
As for leveraging smartphones as an alternative way of reaching customers more directly and conveniently, the company sees this as an opportunity to get ahead of the curve. “Today’s companies can either be disrupted by technology or be the disrupter,” he adds. “At State Farm, our goal is to be the disrupter.”
There you go. One of the oldest brands in one of the most buttoned-down and conservative industries imaginable… adopting the new language of digital change. What are the probability statistics on that?
The exercise speaks to the ways in which brands can leverage the intimacy and familiarity of the mobile device in a number of ways that communicate a brand message. In this case, simply having an open test on Google Play communicates both a sense of transparency about its developments and a willingness to engage customers as collaborators.