Repeated exposure to a message can build positive feelings, particularly for something like car insurance, which has a lot of hidden complexities. That’s according to Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of “The Art of Choosing.” She’s spent years studying the factors that influence our decisions.
In other words, because people aren’t going to sit down and compare the minutiae of different policies, companies know they need to build up a sense of friendly familiarity with prospective customers.
“That’s what Geico does very well, even though it’s a complex product,” Iyengar said. “They just have lots of different kinds of narratives and they just hammer you with them no matter where you are. Maybe people don’t understand exactly what the product means, but that particular one has become so familiar that they’re willing to trust it.”
Geico isn’t alone, of course. Like their Gecko, characters like Progressive’s Flo and Allstate’s Mayhem have become pop-culture staples, and you can almost certainly sing more than one insurance commercial jingle. When market research company YouGov published their first Ad Awareness Rankings, based on a single question—”Have you seen an ad from this brand in the past two weeks?”—Geico ranked #1, ahead of mega-brands like Verizon, McDonald’s, and Walmart.
Major insurance companies pour their resources into advertising because they want to be at the top of your mind when you’re ready to buy insurance. And their strategy works. State Farm, Geico, Progressive, and Allstate accounted for more than half of all the car insurance policies sold in the United States last year. And even though there are hundreds of companies offering policies, the market remains dominated by recognizable names. Beyond the Big 4, the top 10 companies claimed more than 70% of the market, while the top 25 carriers captured more than 85%.
You can make that familiarity work in your favor, using it as a shortcut when you don’t want to spend a lot of time making a decision.