In an age when advertising campaigns come and go like leaves on trees, Allstate’s iconic “Mayhem” has defied the odds by sticking to a basic formula: portray a relevant vulnerability, make it physically and visually interesting, and include a repeatable line. Launched in 2010, “Mayhem” is the antithesis of its central character, earning a treasure trove of industry awards and consumer accolades as the multi-platform campaign adapted to changing times.
“You know you have a good idea when the core of a campaign doesn’t need to change,” admits Lisa Cochrane, senior vice president of marketing at Allstate, who is responsible for the long-running “Mayhem” campaign. “That’s what’s so special about ‘Mayhem.’ It’s rooted in a simple truth: Insurance is not all the same — you better be sure you’re protected because life is absolutely full of mayhem. What does change is our world. Every day there are new vulnerabilities, new kinds of mayhem. Allstate’s ‘Mayhem’ campaign adapts, while sticking to a basic formula that we know works.”
Cochrane, who will present at the Association of National Advertisers’ 2015 BAASH: Brand Activation Annual Showcase, April 13 - 15 in Chicago, shares more insight on “Mayhem.”
Q. In what innovative ways has the campaign evolved in the digital and social spaces?
A. While “Mayhem” started on TV and online, today we use “Mayhem” in new ways across different media. You might think you need a visual to make “Mayhem” work, but radio works beautifully, letting us create things with words you can’t capture on film — what we call “theater of the mind.” “Mayhem” can be a tube of lipstick, a bubbling casserole, or a flip-flop stuck under the accelerator of a car.
Social media is another good example. “Mayhem” has had his own Facebook page since 2010. The intimacy of the digital space provides endless options. For example, on New Year’s Day 2015, during the Allstate Sugar Bowl, “Mayhem” was a “social media-savvy burglar” who noticed a couple posting online from the game. He “let himself into” their home, selling everything they own on a website. TV ads and social posts drove millions of people to the e-commerce website, MayhemSale.com. In this instance, “Mayhem” extended across multiple screens, from TV to digital to social. The #MayhemSale hashtag reached the number one trending spot globally during the Allstate Sugar Bowl game and generated more than 46 million impressions. The next day, ABC News declared Allstate’s “Mayhem” the “biggest winner of college bowl,” which caused the Internet to explode with the message: “Don’t over-share on social media.”
Q. How are you reaching multicultural audiences through “Mayhem?” What is the key to success?
A. As with any consumer segment, the key to success with multicultural audiences is mining a deep understanding of the consumer, and then using those insights to develop effective and engaging marketing strategies. In extending the “Mayhem” concept to our Hispanic audience, we discovered a cultural nuance that may seem subtle but makes all the difference. “Mala Suerte,” “Mayhem”’s “Hispanic cousin,” uses Hispanic insights around superstition and bad luck to highlight vulnerabilities and educate consumers about why they need better protection. Just like “Mayhem,” “Mala Suerte” extends across media. In fact, Allstate’s #EnviaMalaSuerte World Cup campaign took home the Grand Prize Award in the Hispanic category at the ANA Multicultural Excellence Awards in 2014.
Q. What marketing lessons have you learned from “Mayhem” that will continue to serve Allstate long after the campaign ends?
A. The “Mayhem” campaign was a different approach than we had used before. For most of us, different can be scary — especially when you’re talking about bad stuff that can happen, which people don’t like to hear about. But the “Mayhem” idea served to reinforce what we all know, deep down inside: when you have a relevant insight and a big idea, trust your gut.
Q. What advice would you offer younger marketers who yearn to be the next Lisa Cochrane?
A. You can make a difference in this business. Sure, the business of advertising is business, but it can give you a stage to do more. Start with a purpose, add your passion, and you can not only move business, but potentially change lives.