John Swigart, who leads marketing at Esurance, told an audience at Monday's OMMA Global Hollywood conference in Los Angeles that the company started as a brainchild eight years ago and is now a major player in the $160 billion auto insurance industry.
In his keynote address, "All Circuits Are Busy: Keeping Up in the Digital Age," Swigart said that brand awareness of Esurance languished until the company launched its first TV ad, featuring an animated pink-haired pixie named Erin.
"Consumers equate a company's size to whether they see you on TV," he admitted. Follow-up focus groups confirmed that the personification of Esurance by Erin translated to its having a personality. "TV," he concluded, is not as dead as some people profess it is."
As for measuring that success, Swigart said Esurance saw its landing rate rose in search listings, for several weeks enjoying the top spot after the TV spots broke, the company took a sponsorship in Live Earth and followed up with PR. "Landing is the buzz meter," he said, "and we keep track of it."
Esurance keeps a keen eye on "shopping share versus marketing share. It takes years for the market to turn over," he said, since people rarely shop for insurance, which Esurance has grown to offer in several categories. "The key is to make them remember our name."
On the Internet, it focuses on engaging Internet consumers, especially those who are comfortable doing complex financial computations online. "We have surpassed State Farm, All State in active awareness," he said, because consumers know they can get a quote on Esurance. "Either they've done it or they will."
There is tremendous power, he said, in "web fronts or store fronts," advising marketers to listen to consumers "tell you what you need to do."