Killing the Golden Duck

Aflac CMO Jeff Herbert is clipping the wings of its ubiquitous duck, Advertising Age reports. Despite an astounding 85% brand awareness – attributable largely to the duck – Herbert is retooling the insurance provider’s marketing plan around education, not awareness. From Ad Age:

His plan is to focus more marketing on what Aflac does — supplemental insurance — while expanding its offerings and growing the category.

“Our industry is a difficult one for the average consumer to understand,” Mr. Herbert said. “We want to move our brand from being known to owned.” And that means new creative, new products and a rethinking of the media plan.

I’m sure a deep dive on the benefits of supplemental insurance is just what the average consumer wants.  While it certainly makes sense to augment the duck with a broader strategy (one that is less reliant on TV advertising) to help turn brand awareness into sales, Herbert should not turn his back on a brand icon that most other services companies would die for. This is the problem when a “classically trained packaged-goods marketer,” as Ad Age refers to Herbert, tries to apply a “classic” (outdated?) CPG formula to a wildly different market like financial services. Selling insurance ain’t like selling Macaroni & Cheese.

Update: Aflac said in a press release that contrary to stupid media reports, it “has no intention of abandoning its use of the Aflac duck.”  

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