Progressive insurance was founded in 1937; since then, it has been providing auto insurance to private individuals as well as corporations. Popular in both the United States and Australia, Progressive operates through agencies as well as the direct sales market. In recent years, the company has begun to put more focus on the direct sales aspect of insurance, as more individuals are seeking auto insurance online than ever before.

Other companies had already taken a firm grip on direct sales. GEICO especially began an aggressive advertising campaign in order to capture public attention and build positive brand recognition. In order to compete with GEICO’s iconic commercials, Progressive created Flo, the corporate mascot and star of its advertising campaign.

Progressive Advertising Campaign

At one time, insurance advertisements were fairly straightforward, and often had a serious or somber tone. Insurance was sold primarily by agents, and it was not very common for an individual to purchase his or her own car insurance directly. Once the direct market became greater, commercials began to become more engaging for the average consumer.

While Progressive commercials often utilized humor, there was no cohesive character serving as the face of the company until 2008, when Flo was introduced. Like the GEICO gecko and cavemen, Flo became synonymous with the company, serving as a mascot and instant brand recognition.

Flo is portrayed as an extremely out-going, happy Progressive employee who works in a massive warehouse-style insurance store. In the Progressive advertisements, insurance is created as a tangible product, sold in boxes and purchased at a counter like any other type of merchandise. Flo provides cheerful customer service to customers who are often confused or uncertain what to buy.

Other characters do occasionally appear in the commercials as well. For example, there are representatives from other insurance companies that are often caught shopping for insurance at the Progressive store. These representatives are shown as middle-aged, balding men wearing suits and acting uptight. Contrasted with Flo’s perky demeanor, over-the-top makeup and outlandish uniform, the ad’s message becomes clear: Unlike stuffy, boring insurance companies, Progressive is young, hip and friendly.

Flo’s bubbly personality is not the only attractive element of the commercials. By showing car insurance as something tangible that can be purchased by a consumer, Progressive provides an image that shoppers can understand. In this respect, treating an insurance policy like a packaged product is smart advertising: Customers understand that they are shopping for an item, and become more comfortable with the transaction as it is something familiar to them.

By and large, the message has been overwhelmingly popular. While Progressive still trails behind GEICO in studies of brand recognition and advertising popularity, Flo is the top mascot from any insurance company currently on the market. She has a large fan following on Facebook and other social media sites, and Flo Halloween costumes have hit the shelves in stores countrywide since her appearance.

Who is Flo?

Flo the insurance mascot is played by actress and comedian Stephanie Courtney. Born and raised in Stony Park, New York, Stephanie Courtney went on to study criminology at Binghamton University. In addition to her work on the Progressive commercials, she has appeared in several television shows and is part of an improvisational comedy troupe called Groundlings. Since the introduction of the Flo character in 2008, Stephanie Courtney has starred in 53 Progressive commercials.

Response by Other Insurance Companies

Once Progressive and GEICO began to utilize mascots and heavy direct marketing strategies, other insurance companies began to compete with their own amusing advertisements and iconic characters. Allstate introduced Mayhem, a suit-wearing agent of chaos; State Farm has helpful agents who can be summoned by singing the State Farm jingle.

As insurance companies become more competitive and struggle to obtain more customers through direct sales channels, commercials are likely to become more outlandish and seek to create even stronger brand recognition. Because the majority of new customers in the direct sales market are young and tech savvy, insurance companies need to market their product to that demographic.

Progressive’s Corporate Mentality

The catchphrase “Now that’s Progressive” sums up the company’s ethos in more ways than one. In many ways, Progressive is ahead of the curve in the products it offers. For example, it was one of the first insurance companies to sell policies directly to consumers through its website.

It also implemented its Snapshot Program, which enables drivers to pay according to their mileage and driving habits; other companies have instated similar programs since, but the concept is strongly associated to Progressive for many consumers. Progressive also offers pet insurance, covering injuries that pets sustain in motor vehicle accidents, and Progressive insurance adjusters are able to drive to the scene of an accident and assess the damage immediately, giving the company one of the fastest response times of any major insurer.

Because Flo is still relatively new compared to long-standing icons like the GEICO gecko, time will tell if the advertising campaign continues to generate positive reactions among viewers. Since its release, Progressive has gained in popularity and dramatically improved in brand recognition. If the company continues to offer innovative products to go along with its quirky, off-beat commercials, Progressive is sure to gain in popularity and eclipse its competitors.