Welcome to the Will It Stick podcast where we examine some of the craziest, coolest and most memorable advertising campaigns, PR stunts and marketing moments in history from brands of all sizes. Hosts Alexis and Melissa break down the details, from the idea that sparked the stunt, to whether or not they pulled off, our hosts ask the question, “What is it that makes or breaks a brand stunt?”

Today, our hosts conduct a deep dive analysis on the ways in which brand mascots can drive a brand directly to fame, or right into the ground. Iconic characters like Mr. Clean, the Energizer Bunny, and the Glad Man are all examples of characters that have withstood the test of time. On the other hand, some characters have proven unmemorable, while others such as The Burger King, left consumers more creeped out than enticed.

Of all the brand icons to surface over the years, none has been more successful than Progressive Insurance’s character, Flo. With her crisp, signature all-white uniform, Flo is ranked as the single most recognized brand icon – an icon that was created entirely by accident. Founded in 1937, Progressive strove to offer affordable auto insurance to drivers of all risk levels. As the first auto insurance company ever to offer comparative prices, pet injury coverage, and even have their own website, Progressive is a name we hear and see almost daily thanks to their over 100 commercials. Though they currently employ more than 35,000 individuals today, their growth as a company was a very slow build.

Progressive Insurance’s Iconic Mascot, Flo – Credit: Business Insider

After 60 years in business, a survey revealed Progressive as a recognizable brand to only 2% of participants. With such low customer recognition, the concept of the Progressive Superstore was introduced in 2008: Enter Flo. With the director encouraging actors to ad-lib while on the set of the new superstore commercial, Stephanie Courtney, an extra who was soon to become the new face of Progressive, showed off her comedic chops by improvising lines that led to 80% positive feedback from viewers.

The Best Day Commercial – Credit: ispot.TV

With Flo proving to be an instant success, Progressive expanded her storyline well beyond the superstore setting into the wilderness, a laundromat, on the beach, and even on a date. While an attempt was made to incorporate other characters into Flo’s life, none proved to be as successful as Flo herself.

“I’ve Got The Meat Sweats” – Credit: ispot.TV

It’s now been 13 years since Flo first appeared on our television screens. With over 150 ads to date, no other actor has ever appeared in so many commercials as the same character repeatedly.

Work From Home Fails – Credit: Adweek

Tune in today as Alexis and Melissa assess what it is about Flo that has caused her to surpass all media icons to date.

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Resources:

Check out Progressive’s History Timeline here.

Read Fast Company’s news article here.

Read Ad Age’s news article by Ashley Rodriguez here.

Read Ad Week’s article by Robert Klara here.

Watch the 10 Year Anniversary of Progressive Vimeo video here.

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