Progressive Corporation is among the largest providers of auto, motorcycle, boat, and RV insurance in the United States. The company was founded in 1937 and is considered one of the most innovative in the industry. From the beginning, its philosophy has been to approach auto insurance “as no other company had. “Progressive attracts new customers through its unique product offerings and services. For example, it was the first insurance company to offer a drive-thru claim service, a 24-hour claim service, and reduced rates for low-risk drivers. In 1994, it introduced a comparison insurance shopping service, encouraging customers to call 800-AUTO-PRO (now 800-PROGRESSIVE) and receive a Progressive quote as well as comparison quotes from three other competitors. The company extended this service when it launched comparison rate shopping on the internet. It was also the first insurance company to offer the Immediate Response Vehicle (IRV), a special vehicle that brought trained claims professionals to wherever customers needed them, including the scene of an accident. Today, Progressive has thousands of RVs located across the country.
The insurance industry has changed a lot over the years as consumers have become more educated, more cost-conscious, and less likely to use an agent during the buying process. Jonathan Beamer, marketing strategy and innovation business leader at Progressive, explained the company’s media strategy: “As a company, we’ve always had the belief that customers should be able to interact with us in their channel of choice. In the past, that was by phone, online, or through an agent. Social media is another means for customers to engage with our brand.” The company has a network of 35,000 independent agents but also allows customers to interact with it via the Internet or mobile devices. It offers consumers several options to manage their service claims as well. Policyholders can bring their damaged vehicle to a Progressive service centre, or they can call Progressive for roadside assistance to take care of problems ranging from flat tires to locksmith needs.
Consumers have responded positively Progressive’s marketing campaigns in recent years thanks to the company’s iconic character Flo, a quirky, witty employee dressed in a white uniform and white apron bearing the company’s logo. Flo commercials are often set in an imaginary insurance superstore and aimed at consumers who are considering getting a new insurance policy or changing insurers. The company has found that using a person to represent the brand helps consumers envision the intangible act of buying and selling insurance as a tangible one. Its ads also often feature a large white-and-blue “insurance” package, again reinforcing the idea that Progressive sells something concrete rather than abstract. In every commercial, Flo goes out of her way to help customers and their businesses. She works alongside plumbers, lugs shrubbery with landscapers, and finds stranded cars and drivers in the pouring rain.
Flo, her packages of insurance, and the Progressive supercenters have all helped differentiate Progressive in a competitive industry. Flo is now one of the most recognized advertising icons, and as Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Charney explained, “Flo has made us a household name.” However, Progressive’s marketing team is careful to keep her modern and relevant. She appears across all screens, including TV, the Internet, mobile devices, smartphone apps, video games like Sims Social, and animated YouTube videos, and she even has her own Facebook page (along with millions of fans). The company’s marketing has also won multiple awards, including Adweek’s “Brand Genius: Marketer of the Year Award” in 2011 and an Effie award for marketing efficiency. Progressive has experienced impressive growth over the past two decades thanks to its innovative and affordable insurance solutions and direct marketing campaigns. Between 1996 and 2005, the company grew an average of 17 per cent per year, from $3.4 billion to $14 billion. In 2013, it wrote 17.3 billion policies and earned $18.2 billion in revenue.
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