Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

25 June 2018

The Aflac duck and meaningless brand equities

Aflac Chief Brand & Communications Officer Catherine Hernandez-Blades tells reporters that the Aflac duck is here to stay after 18 years of service.

AflacRight move? Eh. When you own a brand equity, like the Aflac duck, it represents an instant connection to the brand. Many brands attempt developing brand equities. Few really succeed at it.

The Aflac duck? It’s a brand equity in name only. With the duck squawking, “Aflac,” you recall instantly the brand. But does it have any meaning?

See, that’s where many brands and their equities fall down. Equities are built over time. And the best ones are associated with an emotion relating to the brand promise. Cinderella’s castle represents Disney’s brand of magic. The Golden Arches signify the McDonald’s brand promise of fun. The bite in the Apple logo represents eating from the forbidden fruit.

“Yes, we know who they stand for, and that has value. But they don’t mean squat.”

The Aflac duck fails as a brand equity with meaning

The Aflac duck, while instigating recall, doesn’t own that sort of association. Neither does the GEICO lizard. Yes, we know who they stand for, and that has value. But they don’t mean squat.

In fact, the insurance industry as a whole does a perfectly fine job of developing brand equities that own little meaning. Flo from Progressive? The brand certainly displays a unique look (all white) but I still can’t fathom what Flo means.

The closest an insurance company has to a meaningful brand equity is Allstate’s Mayhem character. He represents danger. Whether that’s all that important is another question. But at least he represents something. However, even he is just a throwaway marketing character that doesn’t represent the Allstate brand.

In fact, the reason why brands so often stop short of owning a long-lasting, meaningful brand equity is that they work backward. That is, they think up something they believe is memorable and squeeze it into a brand meaning.

When, in fact, a brand equity forms more organically than that. You develop the brand and its promise first, with an equity emerging from that.

So, yeah, keep the Aflac duck. But I still don’t know what the quacker means.

See more posts in the following related categories: Insurance brands


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