For Nationwide’s Matthew Jauchius, Marketing Is the Best Policy

2014 Brand Genius winner for financial services

Promoting insurance services has traditionally relied on earnest pitchmen or scenes of car trips gone awry. But exotic birds?

Nationwide’s spots in the recent past featured scenes like a guy sitting in his living room with three tropical parrots on his head, singing the Nationwide theme song while a dude dubbed “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World” interviewed him.

Photo: Sasha Maslov

Not everyone was amused—among them, Matthew Jauchius.

Nationwide wanted a strong concept to go up against the Geico gecko and the Aflac duck. But rather than doing what the CMO calls this “yuk and a hard laugh” routine, he switched over to the high road. No more talking animals or buffoons with microphones. “We’re trying to change the tone and conversation of the insurance category,” he says.

So Jauchius championed a new message. “Here’s a conversation that matters,” he says, “to let you know we’re on your side.”

Sound familiar? It should. “Nationwide is on your side” has been the brand’s tagline for decades. But under Jauchius, who joined the company in 2006 as chief strategy officer, that positioning has evolved into a frank, inclusive message that’s made Nationwide into the trustworthy grown-up of the category.

“Join the Nation” is a slogan that connotes both the company’s size and diversity. With agency McKinney, ad spots went out of their way to show men and women, old and young, hipsters and regular joes, in activities ranging from learning to drive to rummaging around in a flea market. Nationwide also partnered with the Human Rights Campaign to reach the LGBT community via a direct-mail campaign.

But the brand didn’t eschew humor altogether. The “Your Car Is Your Baby” series of spots got serious mileage by placing a tree-size infant in place of a beloved set of wheels. The spots, launched last year, tied in with an online contest dubbed “Name Your Car Day” that generated thousands of stories. (In a survey, Nationwide discovered that 25 percent of Americans have nicknames for their cars.)

Prior to joining Nationwide, Jauchius cut his teeth with consulting giant McKinsey, which gave him a broad view of marketing, says Jacki Kelley, COO of Bloomberg Media, who worked with Jauchius when she was North American CEO of Mediabrands. “He’s a fascinating CMO because he’s so strategically minded,” she says. “He creates bold, clear intentions for both his teams and agencies and then lines people up against that and is maniacal in producing results. He sees marketing as a critical investment, not as an expense. He gets his budgets increased because of the results. I wish we had more CMOs like him.”

Indeed, Jauchius is a unique marketing chief. Last year, as part of Nationwide’s sponsorship of AMC’s hit Mad Men, Jauchius himself appeared in a ’60s-style spot. The segment did so well that it ran again this year.

As for results, since launching “Join the Nation” in July 2012, Nationwide’s advertising effectiveness has grown by 50 percent, while the brand has notched a 30 percent rise in consumer consideration, the company reports. “Under Matt’s leadership, the Nationwide marketing team has done a tremendous job helping us tell our story to consumers in a tone and manner that drives business results,” says CEO Steve Rasmussen. “We are proud of the creative work that comes from Matt and his team and the way his group uses data and analytics to help Nationwide ‘punch above its weight’ among our competitors.”

Baby on Board | The "Your Car Is Your Baby" campaign gt serious mileage for Nationwide.

View the Brand Genius winner class of 2014:
Paul Crandell, GoPro | Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle | Michelle N. Fernandez, Canon USA | Camille M. Gibson, General Mills | Trudy Hardy, BMW of North America | Matt Jauchius, Nationwide | Quinn Kilbury, Newcastle Brown Ale | David Melançon, Benjamin Moore & Co. | Shane Smith, Vice | Dana White, UFC