AFLAC Incorporated sells supplemental health and life insurance. In the United States, AFLAC is known for its policies that “pay cash” to supplement or replace a policyholder’s income when an accident or sickness prevents the policyholder from working. In 1989, the Columbus, Georgia, company, American Family Life Assurance Company, adopted the acronym AFLAC. At that point, the company had very little brand recognition; the name AFLAC meant nothing to potential customers. To boost brand recognition, AFLAC undertook extensive marketing research and emerged with the symbol of the duck. As of 2009, AFLAC boasts 90 percent brand recognition. This is so high that it actually rivals Coke, the company with the highest brand recognition, at 95 percent. Even children (age’ 8 to 13) are familiar with the AFLAC name, ranking it in the company of Pepsi, Old Navy, and M&M’s. This is important, because as children grow up and start to buy insurance, the AFLAC name will be at the front of their minds.
After the decision was made to just raise brand awareness with ads, a specific campaign had to be created. Again, marketing research played a major role. From the start, it was-decided that the ads that tested the best were going to be the ads that would be used. The research said that test customers viewing the ads preferred the AFLAC duck much more than any other ad viewed. But where did the duck come from? During the ad development process, one of the ad agency (the Kaplan Thaler Group) researchers just began to say the word “AFLAC” over and over again. Eventually
it was noticed that this word, said a certain way, sounded like a quacking duck. This led to the duck commercials. The risk in these commercials was that AFLAC was making fun of the fact that no one knew about the brand name, and humor in advertising does not always appeal to people who want a more serious tone. What if the people had seen the television commercial and thought, “How stupid!” or “A life insurance company should be more serious than that.” Therefore, the duck commercials were tested against alternatives in experimental design situations. The test audiences loved the duck commercials and rated them the most memorable out of all the possibilities (AFLAC’s main objective). Thus, the duck was born.
The campaign has been nothing but a success. Not only has AFLAC’s brand recognition soared, but the company’s sales have as well. Before the duck campaign, AFLAC’s annual sales were growing in the \0 to 15 percent range. Post duck, AFLAC’s sales are growing at an annual rate of 24 percent. Surprisingly, the growth is not limited to the United States. In fact, 70 percent of AFLAC’s profits are from clients in Japan. The duck is now a world phenomenon, and AFLAC has marketing research to thank