Thursday, July 9, 2009

State Farm Insurance and the tale of the moonwalking crazy pink bunny

Last week I wrote about smartphones. Since one out of seven minutes of media consumption today is through mobile devices, this is an important communications platform for brands. With mobile usage expected to grow by 60 percent over the next two years, marketers should be thinking about how they can leverage these devices to build the brand and drive the business.

Mobile advertising is certainly one avenue marketers can pursue. According to new research from IPG's Universal McCann and AOL, mobile users are surprisingly accepting of advertising. Amongst 1800 respondents polled, 38 percent said they had taken action based on mobile ads. Almost 30 percent said mobile ads had led them to share information, while 22 percent said mobile ads had influenced a purchase decision.."

However, Forrester Research isn’t as bullish as the AOL folks who commissioned the study referenced above, citing hurdles such as complexity around metrics, carrier relationships and limited consumer mobile data use as stifling mainstream mobile marketing today. The firm doesn't expect mobile spending to pick up until mid-2011 as brands continue to rely on more established avenues for marketing products and services.

Advertising complexities aside, what I continue to find promising for brands are mobile apps; where you are building something of value that your target actually wants to download. Mobile apps are a great example of permission based or “inbound” marketing, something that does not buy you immediate eyeballs but builds more meaningful relationship with your users. All sorts of brands are experimenting with mobile apps as it's an area rich in possibilities for building loyalty and driving sales.

Recently the savvy (e)retailer Best Buy introduced Best Buy Weekly Deals, a mobile app designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Once the app is downloaded, users can view weekly deals and mobile-only specials and find the nearest Best Buy store. A mobile app can offer a richer, faster customer experience than a mobile commerce web site because many of the features and design elements are stored on the smartphone. This means that these elements do not have to be regularly downloaded from servers, and because an app can integrate with smartphone features such as an address book or GPS navigation, it can greatly enhance functionality.

And then there is State Farm and the tale of the moonwalking crazy bunny. State Farm has recently introduced an iPhone app that acts as a "pocket insurance agent" allowing you to submit a claim directly, with pictures and details, the moment you're in an accident. Now, I don’t personally expect to have an accident happen frequently enough to have an insurance app taking up valuable storage space on my iPhone, but perhaps some do and will covet this app.

However, it’s not the app that I have an issue with – it’s the ad campaign. State Farm is attempting to offer convenience and build trust by “being there” with this app, however, their advertising is totally out of brand character. The ad features a pink bunny that goes berserk and dismantles a guy's car in a parking lot. While this is happening, the car owner is sitting in the car using the app to send in the damage report.

I don’t know about you, but I'm scared

Who’s in charge of brand strategy over there?

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