financial services

Progressive Strives To Keep 'Flo' Fresh

Flo from Progressive insurance has joined the big leagues of advertising icons.

A Google search for “Flo from Progressive” yields an astonishing 14.4 million hits, including her own Wikipedia page.

Near the top in the search rankings is a dedicated Progressive microsite which helps consumers to “Dress Like Flo.”

“The Flo costume has increased in popularity each Halloween since the character debuted,” said Jeff Charney, chief marketing officer at Progressive. “We love that.”

The Web site lists the various items necessary to build the look of the perky insurance saleswoman, including the navy blue handband and bright red lipstick. There’s also a $39.99 costume that can be purchased from the Progressive store.



It doesn’t have to be Halloween for fans to show their love for the ageless insurance clerk. The site also offers several T-shirts with Flo’s image and a Flo bobblehead.

The Facebook fan page for “Flo, the Progressive girl,” has gone from 500,000 Facebook fans in November 2010 to 5.3 million fans today. Described as the fan page for “Flo, Progressive’s always happy-to-help insurance clerk,” it dwarfs the regular Progressive Facebook page, which has 173,663 “likes.”

But that’s okay -- because if Flo is popular, so is Progressive, Charney tells Marketing Daily.

Last month marked Charney’s three-year anniversary as Progressive’s CMO. Although he “inherited” the Flo character which predated him by several years, first debuting in 2008, he has taken steps to make the creative his own.

Progressive has adopted a strategy unlike any other in the insurance industry, treating its ad creative like a television network, led by its hit show, the Superstore campaign featuring Flo. The network strategy takes similar elements you’d see on a major TV network -- guest stars, an ensemble cast, spin-offs, etc. -- and applies them to advertising.

The strategy helps keep Flo fresh, even after 100 commercials, and helps combat “Flo-fatigue,” he said. Most importantly, it helps Progressive out-create vs. outspend to keep its message top of mind in a crowded marketplace, he adds.

Adding new content helps drive more business, Charney says.

“We started with her as the hero, than added an ensemble, foils (in the form of rival insurance company employees), than we changed scenes to keep it fresh,” he says.

Spots like “Superhouse” feature Flo without really featuring her since the other characters (the wife and daughter) play her in the spot.

Even though the company, based near Cleveland, is mixing up their creative, the more consumers see Flo, the more they like her.

“It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but she really does seem to grow on you,” Charney says.

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