Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but what does it do?

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to an Aflac sales person. They marveled how the Aflac duck has put them on the map. Before said duck, nobody had even heard of them. Now just mentioning the name of the company gets people within ear shot quacking away. That brand icon has been immensely successful in building brand awareness world-wide. Aflac's commercials endear people to the brand. They simply love that duck. I wonder if the Aflac Duck is even more popular than other famous ducks such as Daffy, Donald and Daisy.

(Now before you read on ask yourself: "What does Aflac do?" )

The most interesting thing in our discussion is after the awareness of Aflac is established, the first comment they generally hear is: "So, just what does Aflac do?" Now this person, (who is commission sales) must explain what Aflac does to make money. Isn't the job job of advertising to first get awareness and then tell them what they do? If Aflac could get that duck to spread a little wisdom, the sales person wouldn't have to spend valuable time explaining what they do, to a person who may not be a prospect. Knowing what they do, allows us the consumers the opportunity to make that initial connection based on our desire for more information on a need. The sales person would then have a warm lead and can spend their time more proactively selling their services, rather than educating. The sales person said that this problem has concerned them for some time. To a commission sales person time is definitely money.

Besides this situation, what does it do to Aflac's brand? I am not even suggesting that they haven't been successful financially with what they have done to date, I only suggest that they might want to consider broadening their focus to start actually telling the viewers what the duck does for a living. It would certainly increase revenues further if the sales teams have more time to actually sell. The sales person I spoke with thought that this would be true. They found many times after explaining what Aflac does the person turns out to not even be a potential customer. Problem.

How many times have you seen this scenario, fabulous brand awareness , lousy product knowledge. In the Detroit area many years ago there was a local car dealer who went by the name Mel Farr Superstar. People were amused by his schtick, but when pressed to identify which of the Big 3 he sold many got it wrong. The promotional balance was off - awareness over product. If your brand icon is doing you a world of good it is only human nature to go with the momentum. The only thing I would like to caution you on is to not ignore the products or services you sell. Balance the message and allow your sales people the opportunity to do what they do best which of course is sell. The more money they make, the wealthier you become.

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