Tireless and Talkable Campaigns:

Decisions slide

Four decisions every brand can make to fuel the conversation

In the Northwest, everyone knows the guy who sports a pair of sandals with a pair of wool socks. Around here, there are certain quirks that set the people of this corner of the country apart from other regions.

That’s the sentiment at the center of PEMCO Insurance’s award-winning “We’re A Lot Like You. A Little Different.” advertising campaign, which features more than 70 tongue-in-cheek descriptions of people frequently spotted around the Northwest, including the ever-popular Sandals and Socks Guy.

Seattle Best

Early this month, PEMCO added five new Northwest Profiles to the mix, which were welcomed with fanfare from across the region. And despite its nearly five-year run, the campaign continues to ring true for many of our friends and neighbors. In fact, in December 2011, Seattle Magazine named it the “Best Local Ad Campaign We Never Tire Of.

To get here, we developed a detailed branding strategy rooted in a series of decisions all brands can (and the smart ones do) make, which have helped pave the way for our campaign’s success.

Decide to listen. Long before any Northwest Profile came to life, we knew we needed to build a foundation of primary research to help inform our strategy. We partnered with an independent researcher to conduct more than 100 in-home interviews to determine what resonates with Northwest residents. As we talked with our Northwest neighbors, we learned that local people like doing business with local companies.

Decide to be affected by what you hear. We developed a marketing strategy based on differentiating ourselves from national competitors on our ability to be hyper-local. But it wasn’t enough just to say that we’re local, we needed to show our customers that we know them in ways that others don’t, proving our localness in credible ways.

For PEMCO, that meant using many of our engagement channels, including traditional advertising, to talk about the people who live here instead of insurance. That stance took a lot of courage: courage to take a smart risk, be bold and table the topic that’s central to our business operations.

Decide to respond to what has affected you. In 2007, PEMCO rolled out the “We’re A Lot Like You. A Little Different.” campaign, and the series of uniquely Northwest caricatures immediately resonated with local residents. We weren’t talking about insurance, but we were connecting with a captive audience in new ways.

Continually developing the right Northwest Profiles that make people laugh and spark conversation challenges us to reflect on our local values and keep the campaign fresh with smart and funny content that mirrors the values the community tells us are important.

Decide to engage. A crucial component of PEMCO’s strategy is to prove our local edge through meaningful engagement with Northwest residents.

To show our local roots, we developed a year-round program of community event sponsorships, giving preference to events that reflect the values we share with our Northwest neighbors. Teams of brand ambassadors represent PEMCO at fairs and festivals across the Northwest, fostering meaningful engagement with word-of-mouth marketing tactics.

Most recently, a promotion with a local environmental trust challenged fans of the campaign to join the conversation online. For every Facebook photo submitted in the spirit of PEMCO’s newest profile, the company pledged to plant a tree.

There are a boundless number of takeaways learned from building a successful campaign, but regardless of your industry and individual challenges, all brands have the ability to make four decisions that separate the ones that get it from those that may fall flat.

1. Decide to listen
2. Decide to be affected by what you hear
3. Decide to respond to what has affected you
4. Decide to engage

Having the courage to make unexpected decisions within each of these areas gave our regional, challenger-brand insurance company the power to shift the conversation and engage with customers in new and meaningful ways.

Imagine what a few simple decisions could do for you.

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The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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