Progressive Hires Aflac's Marketing Chief
(BestWire Services Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Progressive has named Aflac's former top marketing executive, Jeff Charney, as its new chief marketing officer and said in a statement he would "transition to the CMO role at Progressive in the near future." Charney was CMO and senior vice president at Aflac. He previously was CMO at multimedia retailer QVC, Progressive said.
His new duties include advertising, marketing communications, market research, public relations, agency communications, internal communications, social responsibility and graphic design, the insurer said.
Progressive spokeswoman Cristy Cote declined comment beyond the written statement.
Both Progressive, whose ad campaign features its customer service agent "Flo," and Aflac, featuring the ubiquitous "Aflac Duck," have mascots that are considered cultural icons, according to branding expert Liz Goodgold, of San Diego-based Red Fire Branding.
"Both brands have really strong brand agents," Goodgold said. "But the real challenge is making Flo loveable. According to recent research in Consumer Reports, she is one of the most annoying figures on television." Goodgold said her belief is that Progressive brought in Charney "to give Flo a makeover." She added that some of "the great rules when it comes to branding agents and mascots," from which Goodgold believes Progressive has strayed, "is great mascots are loveable and huggable." So, does this mean Flo is about to quack up? "They have to endear Flo to our hearts, and they haven't been able to do that," Goodgold said. "The Aflac Duck works because animals always work." She said making commercials featuring animals and babies means "you have yourself a winner." Goodgold credits Linda Kaplan, of New York ad agency Kaplan Thaler, with creating the duck for which Aflac is now recognized. And she said Charney's strength is "that he understands brand strategy and execution." She predicts Progressive, under Charney's guidance, will follow the Aflac model: "a commitment to the brand agent... and that becomes part of their brand positioning." That means remaking Flo into "an embodiment of the entire brand and a commitment long-term" instead of "an individual ad," she said.
"She has to morph a little bit, be in different situations and perhaps her personality might become a little bit kinder." As for the Aflac Duck, Goodgold has a firm prognostication: "The duck is never leaving." She added, "It can't leave. It's part of our culture and it explains what the brand name (Aflac) doesn't. Who understood the concept of secondary insurance?" Using the duck to raise Aflac's awareness with the public "was a masterful move," she said.
Charney is "the ideal person to continue moving our brand forward, including building on the success of our Superstore campaign and finding creative, new ways to communicate with customers and agents about the benefits of Progressive," said Glenn Renwick, president and chief executive officer of Progressive.
Most Progressive Insurance Group members currently have a Best's Financial Strength Rating of A+ (Superior).
(Dennis Gorski, Best's Review managing editor) (c) 2010 A.M. Best Company, Inc.