Amica Hopes Word-of-Mouth Theme Ensures Its Success

Insurance companies Allstate and State Farm both stress cozy customer relationships. Other players, like Geico, tout lower prices. Now Amica Mutual Insurance Company is looking to build its niche by showing how its customers talk about it to their friends and family in a new national campaign.

“Amica has been around for a very long time and has been built by referrals,” said Kim Manning, svp/director of strategic planning at Cronin and Company, which landed the company’s business last December. “It has a 94 percent customer retention rate. Those two pieces of information were the cornerstone of the campaign.”

In its first work since winning the Lincoln, R.I., company’s business last December, independent agency Cronin & Co. depicts various Amica customers describing car accidents and the ease with which they collected their insurance money.

“Did you hear about my accident?” one man asks a co-worker. Later in the same spot, a surfer describes getting “T-boned.” A voice-over explains that the company built its business on customer referrals and encourages viewers to call. “We also have one of the highest retention rates in the industry. Find out what everyone is talking about,” concludes the voice-over. “Switch to the insurance company that understands it’s not just how you’re covered, it’s how you’re treated.”

Print executions continue the theme. “Who needs paid endorsers when your customers say nice things about you for free?” reads the headline of one print ad, alongside a photo of customer Suzanne Hendery. Body copy asserts the company will take time to help people choose the right coverage at competitive rates. “And we’re easy to work with,” concludes the ad. The campaign currently has no tagline, though Cronin is crafting a line for future efforts.

The spot, breaking today, will air on major cable networks such as CNN, ESPN, USA, The Food Network and Fox News. Print is running in major newspapers, as well as magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Time.

Unlike industry leaders Allstate and State Farm, which sell their products through licensed brokers, or others that contract through independent agents, Amica sells its product directly to the public. As such, the new campaign makes greater use of direct marketing than previous efforts, according to Craig Phelps, svp of Amica.

Matt Nellans, equity analyst at Morningstar in Chicago, said Amica may have difficulty setting itself apart from its competition. “It’s tough to differentiate an insurer,” Nellans said. “It’s really about the price for the consumer.”

The company is expected to spend $15 million on advertising this year, according to sources [Adweek Online, Dec. 20]. That outlay is dwarfed by Allstate and State Farm, which both spent upwards of $200 million on advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. (The two companies account for about two-thirds of the property and casualty market.) Amica is also dwarfed in sales. The company recorded sales of $1.4 billion for fiscal 2003; State Farm had $56 billion.

Previous work from Cossette Post used humor—for example, one TV spot showed an agent swimming out to a customer stranded on a desert island—and employed the tagline, “We keep our promises to you.”