CMO Spotlight: Herbert Says He Won't Kill The Aflac Duck

Jeffrey Herbert yesterday moved into the newly created post of chief marketing officer at Aflac in Columbus, Ga., where his job--to rephrase Coke marketing legend Sergio Zyman, his longtime colleague, mentor and now former boss--will be to sell more insurance to more people more often for more money more efficiently.

Herbert "is an incredibly well-disciplined and well-trained marketer who understands marketing as an engine of growth," Zyman said yesterday.

It's been two years since Herbert left The Coca-Cola Co. to work as a consultant at The Zyman Group in Atlanta. On three separate occasions, he said, clients told him: "You know, what I need is a duck," in an effort to describe what they were looking for in their advertising.

Aflac, which sells supplemental health and life insurance through agents, has since 1999 made clever use of a spokes-duck to build consumer awareness of its brand. Herbert says he has no intention of "being the one" to kill the duck voiced by comedian Gilbert Gottfried. Instead, he looks forward to putting "a new face" on an old duck and getting to know the New York agency, Kaplan Thaler Group, that creates Aflac's ads.



The 47-year-old Georgia resident and marketer of such consumer brands as Coke, Campbell's soups and Kraft General Foods said "there are few companies that have the size and scale of Aflac and still have so much farther that they can go ... When you realize that [Aflac's] broader penetration and notoriety came only in the last four to five years, the potential for what this could be is significant," he said.

For the first time, insurance company Aflac is separating marketing from sales. Herbert, now also a member of Aflac's executive management team, will work to enhance marketing efforts in support of sales. Ronald Kirkland remains director of sales. Both execs report to Paul Amos, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In addition to advertising, Herbert will be responsible for product development. Among the possibilities, he said, are more vertically oriented insurance products such as dental or vision or single traumatic event insurance--like the cancer-expense policy Aflac first issued in 1958.

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