1 Good Reason – Social Marketing

Social and Digital Marketing for the New Reality

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Reactions to the Esurance Social Networking Post

February 8th, 2008 · 1 Comment

This week’s blog post about Esurance’s use of Social Networking has sparked a flurry of interest across the blog-o-sphere. Including an excellent reply by Esurance’s Director of Brand & Public Relations, Kristen Brewe. So in an effort to help my email readers and those without the time read all of the excellent articles I will endeavor to summarize here: (I’m assuming you had the time to read my original post.)

The first to post was Kevin Kennedy-Sapien who said “Epic fail Esurance”. Kevin also notes that he found my blog via twitter, which tells you that part of Social Networking, worked.

Next was Jason Falls with his brilliantly titled post Esurance Arouses Curiosity, Kills The Cat, in his Social Media Explorer blog. I’ll let Jason’s words speak for themselves because they do it so well:

Consumers have changed. Advertising no longer leads to direct sales in most businesses. Consumers are more discerning and desire more than interactivity. They want engagement. They want community. Throw your ads up there and get their attention, but know that all it accomplishes is getting their attention. Once you have it, you’re going to need to know what to do with it.

That’s where customer relationship management programs, social media strategies and community building plans can take your brand from owning just a catchy TV spot to owning a legion of loyal fans willing to share your story.

Now Joseph Jaffe of the famous Across the Sound Podcast and Blog, took a totally different approach:

Give me 1 good reason why anyone (a company, organization, brand or individual) should blog.


To humanize your organization. Blogs have a voice that isn’t ‘corporate’ — the best ones sound like they’re written by people. I can relate much better to other human beings than I can to corporations.
Posted by: Bob LeDrew

It gives you a voice, plain and simple. It’s easy to go through life (or business) and not say anything. It takes guts to start talking.
Posted by: Matt J McDonald

Because a dialog is ALWAYS better than a monologue. What is it that CC said about my blog, anyway?
Posted by: Chris Kieff

To deliver real content that has meaning to people AND allows them to have a voice along side yours.
Posted by: Michael Seaton

Transparency. Companies are not run by robots. We shouldn’t act like it.
Posted by: Jeff Davis

To express yourself. Maybe not a business reason, but a great personal reason.
Posted by: Dan Perry

And then Gavin Heaton wrote When a Brand Speaks with a Customers Voice where he made the following the points:

In the claiming of a brand, we [the consumer] seek to own, consume and digest some spirit that projects beyond ourselves. And the open identification of our selves with a brand allows others of the “tribe” to spot us in a crowd. The brand marks us out to our kin and kind — fugitives, family and refugees all at once.

Ah yes, but what happens when a brand that you have lovingly crafted takes on a life of its own? What happens when your own efforts at outreach fall flat, while the community’s efforts vastly outstrip your own — in popularity, in style and in AUTHENTICITY? What happens when your brand voice sounds better coming through the mouths of your customers?

Saving the best for last I will excerpt the comments by my own readers including the reply from Kristen Brewe at Esurance:

I work at an interactive design firm. Whenever I work with clients on a social media strategy, I often find that they are not familiar with the efforts necessary to maintain online social media relationships with customers. I always recommend that they define goals, establish success metrics, strategically allocate resources, and schedule for consistent communication on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis. This way, the ROI of social media efforts can be measured and better supported by upper management.

I agree that agencies should strategically approach SMO in the same way they approach smart SEO and other marketing efforts. I think we will see improvement in the near future.
Melissa Robison

I had not thought much about fictional characters having social networking power, but now that you mention it, “Erin” and other characters that promote brands should have more background info that will draw people into their community.
Social media is a good way for that, but I think that some people would be turned off by a corporate marketing department having too much going on with the characters. Best to allow fans to build their own pages and get the conversation going.
thom singer

Hi there,
I’m Kristin Brewe, Director of Brand & Public Relations at Esurance. I got your email asking for a comment. The topic of social networking makes for a great discussion, and is definitely relevant to a whole lot of marketers and advertisers these days.

You are absolutely right that there is very little created by us in cyberspace, other than on our site which is clearly owned by Esurance, with the exception of MySpace, which was an error in your posting.

To correct the record, there are multiple entries in MySpace that are “Erin Esurance,” and one of them is created by us:

FAN- http://www.myspace.com/erinesurance
FAN – http://www.myspace.com/eesurance
US – http://www.myspace.com/erin_esurance

The other Erins are friends, however.

But back to social networking…

Our approach is a bit different than what you would like to see for Esurance for 3 important reasons (and they’re slightly inter-related too):

1) fan commitment
2) category constraint
3) our views on corporate and social

In terms of fans, we’re generally pretty happy when people make tributes to the character we’ve created and developed. (Admittedly, there’s some weird stuff out there, but with the Internet, that would happen no matter how many friends we have on MySpace. To any marketers who think they’re in control of a brand once you’ve launched a related meme in the public sphere in the Internet age, “Forget about it.”) The countless people who submit storylines, make art, write songs, create mash-ups, dress up as Erin, and contribute their creativity are what our brand’s all about. So making sure that we inspire public creativity is our main job, in terms of the social network side of things. (And that’s in addition to other important jobs, like sales.)

Within our category, we are more constrained than other businesses as a financial services provider, even though we have pushed the boundary a bit on the standard financial services image. For example: We can’t necessarily do auto-adds on MySpace, without vetting our friends personally. (e.g., Does any company want to find out that their company was friends with someone featured on “To Catch a Predator?” Doubtful.) Personally vetting friends on an app like MySpace takes time, and as one of the comments pointed out, that’s a resource, which can be hard to come by in any environment, but particularly a high growth one. I saw some great ideas above about being an expert on insurance, and also about having Erin engage in experiential marketing. Unfortunately on the first count, giving insurance advice is tough, as the product’s regulated, with strict rules about what can and cannot be said by whom. And, if we just went the experiential route without the insurance, it might be a dialogue that was slightly inappropriate for an auto insurance company to engage in. Those would obviously both be very doable if we were in cosmetics, however.

Which brings me to point #3– the appropriate factor for corporate/social. What’s appropriate in a social setting may not be appropriate in a corporate context, and vice versa. One of the reasons people have created social networks is to escape advertisers and mass messages. Though an anti-corporate vibe permeates our culture, it is more concentrated in online communities. People want to have dialogues with the circles they define, rather than have that intruded upon. Companies relentlessly pursue consumers (a word I hate, as it’s so passive!), and they perpetually invent ways to hide from us advertisers. Rather than continuing to push, shout, and chase, perhaps we advertisers should listen to that message and back off a bit, providing people with content that they can choose to peruse and adapt and mold so that, if and when they do decide to contribute to a brand’s meaning, that’s authentic, rather than merely something we paid for (an inauthentic connection). To us, that’s a social network, in the truest meaning of both words.

At any rate, thanks for asking for our comment. I wish everyone all the best as they navigate this space, as it’s truly different for every category and every company.
Kristin Brewe

Thank you, Kristin, for an excellent thoughtful reply. Too often the corporate legal department would have gotten hold of it and turned it into an empty shell devoid of personality or persuasiveness. — Chris

I’m going to reserve my comments for now and merely become the vehicle to enable the discussion. I’ll continue to monitor these discussions and keep you abreast of the developments in this fascinating aspect of Marketing.

So now that you’ve seen what others are saying, what’s your take?
Leave a comment and us know your thoughts

Tanks for reading,


PS. Thanks to all of my new Twitter friends and followers. It’s wonderful to be part of a globe spanning community. Tweet me any time!



Tags: Dear Mr. Reasonable · Reasons For Net Marketing

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Drew McLellan // Feb 8, 2008 at 8:03 pm


    Very thought-provoking series of partial posts and discussion.

    Here’s the take away for me.

    The Achilles heel of social media is that there’s no prescription for how it should be done. You could cite another 10 experts who would all have a slightly different variation on the theme.

    The other truth is — we don’t know yet. It’s all too new and we are literally inventing it as we go along.

    So while we might think Erin isn’t authentic or isn’t the way it should be done — who knows?

    One of the maddening and exciting things about this time in marketing is that we are the explorers, charting new courses and wondering if the world is flat.

    Fun stuff and great post!


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