53 Years Later, Still in Good Hands

Allstate’s slogan had an inauspicious start.

One day in 1950, a general sales manager at the insurance company rushed home after learning his daughter was ill. His wife, comforting him, noted that the girl was “in good hands” with the doctor. The manager recalled the incident at a sales meeting, and “You’re in good hands with Allstate” was born. Ever since then, the slogan has been the core message of Allstate’s advertising.

According to the advertising-history books, Allstate’s is the oldest surviving tagline for a paid campaign. (In 1947, Smokey the Bear started warning that “only you can prevent forest fires” in a PSA produced by the Ad Council and created by Foote, Cone & Belding.) In the company’s first national print campaign, two hands holding a car illustrate the line. Seven years later, in 1957, Leo Burnett adapted the line for TV. Burnett is still the 72-year-old company’s lead shop, and the slogan is still resonating with consumers. In a 2000 survey of recognition by Northwestern University, it led 30 top ad slogans.

“It could have died right there [in 1950],” says Robert Apatoff, chief marketing officer at the Northbrook, Ill., firm. “It’s all in what you do with it—how do you embellish it and make it come to life?”

One key to keeping the slogan from getting stale is variation. While the focus has always stayed on the “Good hands of Allstate” and the original line remains in the logo, the campaign has been through many permutations. Current TV spots, touting Allstate’s recently broadened financial offerings, put a spin on the slogan. Hands engage in various activities over a tabletop—in one ad, they deal out cards to show how Allstate can help send the kids to med school—and a voiceover says, “The right hands make all the difference.”

“It’s a really good evolution,” says Jonathan Hoffman, executive creative director at Leo Burnett in Chicago. “It’s more active and less about being nestled in the protective bosom of an insurance company.”

The advertising is frequently test-marketed at Allstate’s research center in Palo Alto, Calif. “We do a tremendous amount of research,” says Apatoff. “We would change [the line] if we thought it was no longer relevant. But the bottom line is, every company would die to have the continuity and relevance that this slogan has.”

And continuity is especially reassuring in the insurance business.

“This type of product has gravity. People trust us with their most important assets,” Apatoff notes. “Customers are looking for somebody to rely upon in a category like ours. That’s what ‘good hands’ embodies, and that’s why it’s stuck.”