Quacking Up: Aflac Moves Beyond The Duck With New Branding Campaign

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Over the last decade, Aflac has done an incredible job of gaining recognition for its brand. The supplemental-insurance company now has 93 percent brand awareness compared with only 13 percent when it launched its white “Aflac!”-quacking duck into TV advertisements in early 2000.

But that’s where the company’s branding success stops: All most Americans know bout the brand is that Aflac is represented by the partly annoying, partly endearing wing-flapping Aflac Duck, who’s always seeking attention in its television advertisements.

“We have to take the duck, and we’re beginning to take the Aflac name, in consumers’ minds and explain what we do,” Paul Amos, chief operating officer of Columbus, Ga.-based Aflac, told brandchannel. “We’re going from brand awareness to brand definition.”[more]

As a result of this abrupt shift in strategy, Aflac has launched a new branding campaign that is striking in its departure from the decade of TV commercials featuring the duck. In various efforts united under the theme, “You Don’t Know Quack” about Aflac, the bird is still there – but in a clearly subsidiary role now.

In new TV ads, for example, the pitch man gets quickly to the point: explaining exactly how Aflac’s insurance policies can help Americans who need additional disability, medical or other types of extra, non-major-medical coverage. There also are billboards in premium locations such as Sunset Boulevard and Times Square, disruptive print ads, viral advertising on YouTube and social-media sites, product tie-ins and co-branding, theater teasers, “Duckumentaries” – mini-documentaries about real people and the assistance Aflac provides – and other initiatives.

Amos, son of Aflac CEO Dan Amos, said that Aflac’s business has grown smartly during the last decade of fluttering under the duck, now with more than $1.5 billion in annual sales. And, significantly, 70 percent of Aflac’s sales are in Japan, where the company insures about 25 percent of the entire population.

“The Japanese see the need for our type of product to cover additional expenses, and they’re very conscious about savings and insurance in ways that American consumers aren’t,” Amos explained.

So the goal of Amos’s new “brand definition” campaign, he said, is to have every American see Aflac’s insurance products as “essential” rather than just “voluntary or supplemental,” as most do today. “First we have to get them to understand what we do, then show Americans applications for why they have to have it.”’

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