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Where is Erin Esurance? Or How NOT to Run a Social Networking Campaign

February 5th, 2008 · 17 Comments

Or How NOT to Run a Social Networking Campaign

Erin Esurance

As you may or may not know, Esurance the automobile insurance company has been running an ad campaign based on the cartoon character Erin Esurance for a couple of years now. So I decided to take a look how they were managing the Social Networking aspect of Erin’s campaign.

I know that there is something about how they draw Erin that makes guys notice her. So I figured there must be some fans out there and I wondered how Esurance was handing it. So here is what I found:

Erin’s World on Esurance’s website; fine site in a similar vein to the Geico Caveman’s site except animated. Erin has a blog

Google Blog Search Results 150 of about 660 for erin esurance.

Technorati: 10 posts tagged erin esurance

Yahoo 1- 100 of about 150,000 for erin esuranceFan art of Erin from DeviantArt insipid11

Yahoo offered these Suggestions:

So I figured if I had a hot property like this what would I do on the Social Networking side? You’re right, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. This is an opportunity to make a splash right? So I looked up Erin’s pages:

LinkedIn Erin profile is pitiful. Total Friends=1

Facebook Erin’s profile is terrible Total Friends =1

MySpace Erin’s profile is created by a fan. Erin Esurance has 495 friends.

Correct me if I’m wrong here but doesn’t the fan site show that there is a lot of interest and goodwill out there for Erin Esurance? I seems me that a little bit of work on the part of Esurance and they could solidify a very loyal fan base and become a cult classic.

Via the wonder of Social Networking and in the spirit of Doing It Wrong Quickly, Kristin Brewe, Director of Brand & Public Relations at Esurance pointed out the following correction:

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.

What should Esurance do? Work the Social Network baby! Make friends, start emails, ask and answer questions, become a Subject Matter Expert on insurance on the web. Find someone who can assume the persona of Erin Esurance and engage your clients with experiential marketing. I realize that the Erin’s World site is a step in the right direction, but the Geico Cavemen should have taught you that there’s a lot more out there for you engage your clients with.

And we all know that engaged clients are more loyal clients. In the very competitive world of auto insurance I would think that an a company would jump at the chance to do something with a hot property like Erin Esurance.

Chris

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Tags: Reasons For Net Marketing

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jason Falls // Feb 6, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Spot on with the observation, Chris. Esurance has missed out on a great opportunity to captivate and engage fans whose curiosity has been aroused by their catchy commercials. They certainly can right the wrong but obviously need more than just above the line advertising working on their business.

    The problem I find with a lot of companies is they hire an ad agency good at TV spots, outdoor boards, print ads and point of sale pieces and think that’s marketing. What they don’t understand is once you get the attention of the consumer (through advertising) that’s when the work starts. Now you have to take them through a process/cycle of becoming a customer, then preferably, a brand loyalist. Most advertising agencies don’t have the below the line thinking to carry the process forward. That’s why most agency’s (and CMOs) last about 24-30 months on the job.

    Good call.

  • 2 Kennedy-Spaien, Dot Com » Useful Tweets #1 // Feb 6, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    [...] Kieff at 1GoodReason.com has a great case study of how Esurance has dropped the ball by not extending their “Erin Esurance” ad campaign [...]

  • 3 Chris // Feb 6, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Jason,
    You are absolutely right about company’s missing the boat on social marketing. I’m sure that most advertising agencies today don’t “get it” where social network marketing is concerned.

    BTW, I’m looking for work myself. I guess I was too far ahead of the curve this time.

    Thanks for your kind words, and the link love.
    Chris

  • 4 Melissa Robison // Feb 7, 2008 at 12:52 am

    I agree that Esurance has missed the opportunity to connect with and engage fans. However, social marketing is a resource drain and allocating resources to these efforts can be hard to sell through to upper management.

    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.

  • 5 Chris // Feb 7, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Melissa,
    I agree with most of what you say, however I think that in this case Esurance is simply missing the low hanging fruit.
    For example, why have pages on LinkedIn and Facebook and not take friend requests? That’s simple, not time consuming and surely will help.

    There are literally dozens of simple easy steps they could take to leverage SMO without a significant effort.

    Thanks,
    Chris

  • 6 thom singer // Feb 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    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.

    I worry if you get too much success with this, that then all companies will jump in and soon the WalMart price slashing smiley face will have a mySpace page (I did not look, maybe it does)

    thom

  • 7 Chris // Feb 7, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Thom,
    Walmart’s smiley doesn’t have an pages I could find. But I think it’s a mistake for any company to leave their brand on the table for “fans” to pick up.

    There’s plenty of “black hat” going on all over the internet. I wouldn’t doubt that a competitor would be happy to “black hat” a brand via not so nice social interaction.

    Chris

  • 8 Kristin Brewe // Feb 7, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    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

  • 9 Chris Heuer // Feb 8, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    good work on a proposal for them – case study material for sure

    Kristin – great insights on where you are coming from in looking at navigating the corporate line on engagement here – it is really a challenge to get larger organizations moving into this level of participation and it is clear you have a grasp of the real issues here. Will be looking forward to seeing how this evolves over time…

  • 10 Mike Moran // Feb 9, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Social networking can be a great opportunity for a fictional character–look no further than Burger King’s scary King as an example. Erin Esurance certainly seems to fit the demographic of being trendy and fun, so it likely will appeal to the same customers who already frequent social networks. The hard part for most companies is understanding how to fit into the community and identifying the value.

    I hesitate to give advice to a company that knows a lot more about what it’s trying to do then I do, but (you knew there was a “but” coming) in this case I think it would be worthwhile for a social media play based on Erin Esurance to be attempted.

    Certainly, posting videos on YouTube seems relatively safe. I can see where social networks (in a highly regulated industry) might give pause, but I think it might be worthwhile to experiment here, too.

    In the early days of blogging, I sometimes advised companies to find bloggers already successfully attracting an audience on the subjects their customers care about–and hire them. The bloggers were happy and the company got someone who understood blogging and the community.

    Perhaps that would be an option for Erin Esurance’s social network. If the fans are doing a better job creating this presence than the company, perhaps hiring the most successful fan is an option. Granted, the company will need to ensure that the things the fan does reflects well on the company, but it might be easier to do that than to have someone at the company figure out how to attract a social network following.

    Regardless, the resources required are small–you can have one person work on this for a few months, and if it doesn’t work out, oh well. I suspect that’s a small part of the marketing budget.

    Again, I won’t claim to be sure that I am right about this. I just think it’s an ide worth exploring, because it is rather low-risk and low-cost to be wrong. (That’s what “do it wrong quickly” is about, in the end.)

  • 11 Black Zedd // Feb 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Great point. The hype is surely around social marketing, the recent Cloverfield movie being one great example.

    Either people in the company lack the proper awareness of the net buzz, or simply ignorant. How saddening for such a good campaign to fail in carrying its momentum on-line.

  • 12 PR Connections » The struggle for attention // Feb 12, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    [...] Blogger advises auto insurance company esurance to let character Erin Esurance play in the social media landscape, esurance responds, but bloggers  won’t take no for an answer. [...]

  • 13 murketing » Blog Archive » Annals of weird fandom: Erin Esurance? Really? // Mar 22, 2008 at 9:07 am

    [...] a series of clicks that started I’m not sure where, I ended up encountering this post, and this one, about what Esurance (which is an online insurance outfit of some kind) should do about the fans of [...]

  • 14 erin esurance | Wonderful Article // May 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    [...] …Forums – http://www.animea.net/forums|||Where is Erin Esurance? Or How NOT to Run a Social Networking CampaignAs you may or may not know, Esurance the automobile insurance company has been running an ad [...]

  • 15 A Guide to Sex and Politics? // May 21, 2008 at 10:14 am

    [...] could have written about how some firms just don’t get it. Like when I wrote about Esurance not getting it with Erin Esurance’s poor social media showing. I could even have written a [...]

  • 16 beckermow // Sep 6, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    the company is in business to make money for the long term, and they know what they are doing- It’s kinda like the stripper who doesn’t quite take it all off, there will always be those who just keep hanging on waiting for it- by NOT pushing the hot little comic chick too far, and too hard, they will get far more use out of her in the long run- and, btw, she, the g-co caveman and gecko, are not, thats right, NOT REAL! by keeping her a bit distant, it is easier to see her as real! (I noticed you didn’t check for Lil’ Abners my space or facebook, or fred flinstones, etc- but obviously almost 500 myspacers must think she is more than a cartoon! Thanks, good article!

  • 17 Vincent Kernaghan // Feb 18, 2011 at 1:50 am

    I agree with Chris. The original post was in 2008, but this is still a relevant issue for social media in 2011. I haven’t researched Erin to see if things have changed so I’m writing this a bit blindly.

    One aspect of having a cartoon character, or almost ANY brand character for that matter, is that it gives you an opportunity to have “it” interact with other brands and other brand characters or spokespeople. This joint venture of sorts gets you exposure in markets you might not have been seen in before.

    Commodities as common as car insurance can benefit from popping up in unusual places as long as they aren’t offensive – like a strategic advertising cameos.

    Imagine Erin somehow ending up in a race with the GoDaddy girl, Danica Patrick. You’ve got cars and driving and can spin it from there.

    That might not be the best example, but if you keep it fun, it doesn’t have to get into corporate/legal limitations. Maybe have Erin challenge other brand characters in one or more situations. Throw in a contest and you’ve got a party.

    Like I said, I agree with Chris – there seems to be more reasons to do something with the character in social media than not.