As the weekend approaches, you’re likely planning your costume for an upcoming Halloween party (or if you’re like us, you started planning in July). This PRNewser writer went to her first Halloween-themed extravaganza of the season as Flo from the Progressive Insurance ads (picture below).
I initially chose the costume simply because I think Flo is adorable (in a creepy, Stepford Wives sort of way), and because a recent donation to Locks of Love left my hair just short enough to pull it off. But then my costume choice got my PR-oriented brain thinking — superheroes, storybook characters, and familiar faces from TV and movies are always popular costume choices, but what does it mean from a PR and branding standpoint when a character created solely for an ad campaign becomes enough of a pop culture symbol to warrant Halloween costumes?
Insurance companies seem to have the market cornered on popular mascots (probably because insurance is duller than dirt without them). GEICO‘s Gecko, Progressive‘s Flo, and Allstate‘s Mayhem bring personality and humor to an otherwise much-maligned product, and however people might feel about insurance itself, they adore these characters. Case in point: while wandering around a costume shop, I saw a pre-made, pre-bagged “Insurance Lizard” costume hanging between the ever-popular Jack Sparrow and Spiderman.
What’s more, when I showed up at the party dressed as Flo, multiple people asked my significant other why he didn’t go as Mayhem. What, didn’t you know they were a couple? In fact, while doing some research for this post, I Googled “Flo, Mayhem, Gecko”, and one of the first things to come up was “Flo and Mayhem Fanfiction.” Yep. That’s exactly what you think it is. Not only do we love these characters, we’ve created back-stories and relationships for them.
Bottom line: does the fact that these advertiser-generated insurance pushers have become pop culture icons actually correlate to insurance sales? Not exactly. As you can see in this bar graph, while Flo has the most Facebook fans, Allstate has the most policyholders, and while the Gecko has the fewest Facebook fans of the three, GEICO boasts greater assets than Progressive.
So while we can’t really say that the popularity of these mascots directly affects dollar signs, the characters have certainly grabbed the attention, hearts, and imaginations of the public in an overwhelmingly positive way–and from a PR standpoint, that’s a hands-down-win.