How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
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Aflac duck ads up
Imagine you run the boringly-named American Family and Life Assurance Company and want to increase brand recognition. Even the acronym, AFLAC is eminently forgettable. You give the job to various agencies, all of which come up with equally boring 'happy family' adverts. Until one day, even the latest agency can't even remember the name. AFLAC! AFLAC! AFLAC! you shout.
Then the breakthrough starts. Somebody says 'that sounds like a duck quacking.' The conversation continues on how you could have a duck saying 'aflac' rather than 'quack'. Well, you think. I'll give anything a go now. So the duck advert is tested and a remarkable thing happens: name recall shoots up from about 12% to 27% of viewers.
So you decide to take the plunge with a flood coverage in the new year. And it all works! In the first month you get more enquires than in the previous entire year and within two years business has doubled.
If you are American, you may know this story, but the big question is why it worked. I think there are two factors at least at play. First, ducks are cute and generally harmless, so you have the 'ahh' factor that attracts and makes people smile. Secondly, and more perniciously, having the duck speak your brand name (Aflac!) gets around the problem of annoying viewers with excessive brand-name repetition. We expect a duck to quack a lot, and modifying it adds humour -- something which has already been primed by the cute visuals (you should already be smiling).
Clever, huh? Also brave, as there were many pre-launch naysayers. Winning often requires courage and AFLAC have deservedly won big-time here.
Ducks are also one of the funniest animals on the planet, not least - in my
opinion - because they contain the letter "k" (voted to be the funniest letter
in some poll at some point) in their name AND in the onomatopoeic written
version of the sound that they make (quack). And as we know, humourous content
is "sticky" and harder to shake from your head, as well as being entertaining
enough that you'll happily watch the advertisement again.