Aflac the clever duck!

May 9, 2011

Aflac, Inc. averted what could have been a major public relations nightmare when they fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the longtime voice of the Aflac Duck, for the incredibly insensitive remarks he tweeted immediately after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

Aflac CMO Michael Zuna was decisive in the decision to release Gottfried for good business reasons. After all, the company generates the bulk of its revenues in Japan and any hesitation or equivocation would have appeared to support and fuel Gottfried’s dismissive attitude toward the terrible suffering of the Japanese people.

The real genius of the Aflac marketing machine was to immediately announce and launch a national search for the new voice of the Aflac Duck. In little over a month, they announced that Dan McKeague had beaten out more than 12,500 contenders for what has to be one of the best voice-over gigs in the ad business.

This kind of bold and decisive action is just one of the reasons why the Aflac brand, headquartered in Columbus, GA, has more than doubled in brand equity, from 6.4% in 2002 to 12.8% in 2010, as a percentage of its market cap. The value translates from just under $1 billion in 2002 to $3.4 billion in 2010, according to CoreBrand’s Brand Equity data.

This growth of brand equity comes at a time when their competitive peers have lost brand equity — from an average of 4.8% in 2002 to 3.8% in 2010. Brand equity value currently stands at $800 million for the average insurance company. That is what we call creating separation from your competitors.

As much fun as the Aflac Duck is to watch, it is doing some pretty significant business.

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