New 'Jake From State Farm' Beats Out Pandemic Stories

It’s no huge surprise that stories with a pandemic theme were the most well-read last year.

At times, it honestly felt a little unseemly to be writing about marketing while thousands of COVID-19 victims were dying across the world. But despite the huge upending all of us have faced, business carries on and consumers are well, still consuming. 

While they were driven to consume huge amounts of pandemic news, readers were also eager to read about something fun and playful. Marketing Daily’s most-read story in 2020 was about State Farm introducing a new “Jake from State Farm” spot in mid-February. 

State Farm was ahead of the game in terms of inclusivity this year. Before racial unrest gripped the country in the wake of the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others, the company switched things up and offered a young Black man as its new Jake character.  



Extensive consumer research informed the campaign idea, modernizing the iconic brand attributes and assets in State Farm’s storytelling, according to the company. Incidentally, the original Jake is actually an employee at State Farm.

“He did great at delivering his famous line, ‘Uh…khakis.’ However, this expanded role is very demanding and is best filled by a professional actor,” Patty Morris, State Farm assistant vice president of marketing and brand, told Marketing Daily

Many of the rest of my most-read stories of the year were indeed pandemic-themed. Number 2 was from March 8 and featured early efforts by businesses to cope with the very beginning of the mayhem: “Brands Including Costco, Starbucks, Postmates Respond To Coronavirus.” 

In third place, Progressive launched one of the first Zoom-themed creative spots featuring Flo, Jamie and the rest of the gang kicking around campaign ideas in “Progressive Launches Work-From-Home Campaign."

Before the pandemic hit, it was business as usual with February’s "Subaru Launches Outback Campaign" (fourth place). By September, automakers were slowly shifting back to non-COVID-19-themed ads, including “Lincoln Offers Music-Centric Corsair Campaign” (fifth place). 

In sixth place, it was back to the pandemic, with hotel brands addressing the anxiety facing Americans regarding the spread of infection: “Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott Address Pandemic Concerns.” 

Automakers struggled with how to stay relevant and top-of-mind with consumers. Early pandemic spots had a consistent “We’re here for you” tonality, as seen in  “Hyundai, General Motors, Toyota Launch COVID-19 Creative” (seventh place) and “FCA Urges Drivers To Stay Home,” (eighth place.) Chrysler started to lighten up a bit by the end of June with “Chrysler Launches 'Pacifica Mom On Quarantine” (my ninth most-read story). 

Finally, personnel moves were always of interest. CMO revolving doors were swinging at several automakers this year, and my  tenth most-read story was “Volkswagen Top Marketer Leaves Company After 9 Months,” detailing the exodus of Saad Chehab for unspecfied reasons. 

It’s anyone best guess how long the “new normal” will continue, or when in-person events and pre-pandemic activities can resume. In the meantime, keep on reading and commenting. And let’s all thank Al Gore for the Internet. :)

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