Pathmatics Blog

Avoiding Mayhem: Allstate Shifts to Social to Take On Competitors

March 09 2020 by Sarah Fleishman

The video has almost half a billion impressions, and it’s only a few seconds long. A red dot from a laser pointer darts around a living room, while a full-grown man in a suit chases after it like a cat would. He knocks things off tables, crashes into walls. Is that the guy from “Oz?” Or, wait, it’s Liz Lemon’s boyfriend from “30 Rock.” What’s that guy’s name, Dean Winters? What’s going on? It looks like complete mayhem. The video is over. And it is mayhem. 

Allstate Mayhem Facebook ad

The History of Mayhem

The Mayhem character, launched in 2010 by ad agency Leo Burnett, was pitched as a doppelganger of Harvey Keitel in “Reservoir Dogs.” It was an immediate hit, increasing Allstate’s revenue by $4.3M two fiscal quarters after the launch. 

Allstate had been looking for a way to uphold their brand identity of trustworthiness while also competing with other insurers, who were touting low premiums. “You’re in good hands” had been the company’s slogan since the 1950s, and actor Dennis Haysbert had been reassuringly reciting this in TV commercials since 2004. Mayhem was the perfect complement, giving Allstate an edge that Progressive had with Flo and Geico had with their gecko.

Lisa Cochrane, then the senior VP of marketing at Allstate, remarked in a 2015 AdAge interview, "Mayhem raises the question: 'Am I covered for that?’ And Dennis answers. We all encounter life's mayhem and it's important to pay attention to the coverage that you have." 

Last week we took a deep dive into insurance advertising, examining two big corporations, Geico and State Farm, alongside two up-and-comers, Lemonade and Root. We noted that brand awareness is the best route for insurance brands to maximize their digital ad spend, and saw that Geico and State Farm rely mostly on display formats while Lemonade and Root are leaning on Facebook to spread their message. Allstate, though undeniably a major player in the insurance biz, operates like a disruptor — at least as far as their digital strategy goes. Let’s take a look at how they’re using Mayhem and social media to reach their customers. 

Allstate v State Farm v Geico

Above data collected from February 2019 to February 2020.

The Shift to Social

In 2016, Allstate’s strategy looked a lot like that of State Farm and Geico. Only 1% of their digital spend was devoted to Facebook, while 78% went toward display (both desktop and mobile). But within the next four years, those numbers came fairly close to flip-flopping. In 2017, the allocation was 30% Facebook, 62% display; in 2018, 57% Facebook and 40% display; in 2019, 66% Facebook and 22% display.

What’s interesting about this shift is not only its progression, but how the budget affected the number of impressions. In 2016, Allstate spent a total of $40.M across all devices and formats, and received 6.4B impressions. Their spend dropped to $32.4M in 2017 and impressions, as one might expect, dropped as well, to 5.3B. An increase to $38.M in 2018 resulted in an uptick to only 5.4B impressions. In 2019, they spent $50.4M and had only 5.6B impressions. Ostensibly, as the budget fluctuated, the impressions should have fluctuated correspondingly, but instead the impressions remained relatively the same.

Allstate digital spend YOY

Back to Brand Awareness

Why, then, is Allstate focusing on Facebook if it’s losing out on the opportunity for more impressions? Perhaps they are finding that their Facebook ads are pulling in higher-quality leads or coaxing buyers further down the purchase funnel. Or perhaps they are simply trying to compete with industry disruptors who have honed in on social media platforms. We can also look to the Mayhem creatives for some clues. 

Out of Allstate’s top ten performing creatives in 2019, nine of them were videos and and six of those were videos about Mayhem. Mayhem thrives when he’s trashing someone’s living room, ruining a basketball game, or wreaking havoc in a makeshift parking lot. This campaign depends on video to convey the joke. As more households cut the cord, move to streaming services, and leave television commercials in the dust, video advertising on social media platforms has become the new way to see commercials. Allstate’s investment in Facebook ads shows them adapting, along with their audience, to new methods of consuming media. This preserves Allstate’s high level of brand awareness, sustains the Mayhem character that’s brought them such success in the past decade, and lets them compete with the geckos and other insurance gimmicks of the world, along with  smaller companies like Lemonade and Root who are attracting attention with unconventional business models and marketing strategies. We’ll be keeping an eye on future trends in insurance to see if Geico and State Farm follow suit.

Peace of Mind for Your Digital Strategy

To paraphrase an Allstate executive, we all encounter marketing mayhem and it's important to pay attention to your digital strategy. Pathmatics Explorer gives you greater peace of mind by allowing you to peruse years’ worth of historical digital advertising data, compare advertisers side-by-side, and learn about hundreds of brands in dozens of industries. Schedule a custom insights session to get started.   

About Author

Sarah Fleishman

With over a decade of experience across digital marketing, content, creative, and PR, Sarah is a creative and dynamic thinker who loves to delight clients with unique and relatable content. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology.

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