MK 354 Spring 2010

February 16, 2010

concrete: the red umbrella

Filed under: blog #3 — Tags: , , — marissagkelley @ 12:49 pm

According to Chip & Dan Heath’s Made to Stick, the stickiest concrete idea will function in the same way as a piece of Velcro. No messy, complex concepts…just hooks and holes. This involves the transformation of abstract concepts into concrete messages.

Take Travelers Insurance, for example. According to their very thorough fact sheet, Travelers is the third largest writer of commercial U.S. property casualty insurance. Their at-a-glance blurb reads, “Travelers offers a wide variety of insurance and surety products, as well as risk management services, to numerous types of businesses, organizations and individuals. Our products are distributed primarily through U.S. independent insurance agents and brokers.”

To me, a college student still covered under my parent’s insurance, this fact sheet reads like a foreign dictionary. It is not relevant to my needs, it is confusing, and it certainly does not stick like Velcro. My personal reaction to this fact sheet illustrates a problem that faces companies like Travelers: they offer intangible services that often require explanation and serious consideration before a purchase is made. In the words of the Heath brothers, they offer an abstract service. So how does a company like Traveler’s make their message more concrete?

First, Travelers developed a simple and meaningful core message:

We help people protect the things they care about.

Then, they launched their red umbrella campaign. The clever creative team at British ad agency Fallon London took a concrete object, a red umbrella, and used it as a symbol for the Travelers service.  The commercials flow as follows: a red umbrella suspended in mid air floats whimsically above the objects that people value the most: a house, a car, a new business, and most famously, a dog’s bone. In the dog bone commercial, the adorable pooch is plagued by the fear that his most prized possession, his bone, is unprotected. The dog will not rest until, finally, Travelers insurance saves his bone and the day.

Fallon London and Travelers managed to develop a memorable and simple solution to creating a more concrete service. The red umbrella is now synonymous with Travelers core message: protecting the things you love. The end result of their efforts is a brilliant campaign and a distinct brand image.

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