variety branding (and geico)

I have always been a fan of variety branding. Huh?

What I mean is multiple looks and feels for communications and advertising and marketing.

Think Geico as the preeminent example at the moment (even though it is a direct tv example).

In fact. The only reason I am writing about this is because I saw a new Geico ad on TV.

Their approach to encouraging phone calls using TV advertising is awesome.


Notice I didn’t use the “B” word anywhere in there (Brand or Branding).

They have Caveman, Celebrities and Gecko (and some other stuff).

Geico is all over the place executionally.

Yet. Still focused on message and personality (ever notice they tend to skew their talent and execution scenarios slightly upscale so it is still attainable but not cheap – while talking about saving less money).

Oh. Using celebrities helps with that too.


I would imagine the ‘Buzzword’ associated with variety in branding is ‘long tail’. Or what is commonly referred to as the long tail of branding.

Okay. Yeah. I got sucked into this buzzword once and wrote a white paper called the long tail of branding (yup. You can download it).

And the main reason why this post won’t be 15 pages long is because I already have wasted all my great thinking and words up in writing that ‘long tail of branding’ manifesto.


Now that I am fully anti-buzzword I try and keep things down & dirty and focus on some good ole functional ways of thinking about things rather than buzzwords and hype.


What got me thinking about this is the new Geico work on TV … in particular the one with the drill sergeant is awesome:

–          “chug on over to mamby pamby land so you can get some self confidence you jackwagon”

Here is Geico Therapist Sarge:

As a writer you can only dream of writing that dialogue.

This whole variety in executions and consistency in ‘brand’ really is a lightning rod type discussion.

And, oddly enough, I am a convert (and isn’t it said that converts are typically the most ardent believers?).

J Walter Thompson was a HUGE proponent of consistency. And let’s call it “literal consistency” up until maybe the mid to late 90’s when all of a sudden some discussion about ‘how literal do we have to be’ came up in our strategic Thompson Way of thinking about things. Difficult to argue with “make it all look the same so people know who it is and your money works harder.”

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm … that is until you start picking away at what exactly do you mean by ‘look the same.’

Everything literally? Or just strategy? Or a logo and maybe a color? (think a template look)

Interestingly I find variations in the definition driven mostly by sophistication (or depth of learning) of the one discussing it.

(and this is going to be a generalization but percentages are with me)

People with larger agency and larger company experience are less literal. They are knowledgeable enough and understanding enough of the strength of strategy and ability to communicate aspects of personality with variety.

People with less breadth of experience stick to the safer spot – make everything look the same.

Where it gets confusing is when people try and mix in money. The less experienced start arguing “clients/companies don’t have enough money for variety they need it all to work together.”

Silly. Very silly. (I hesitated to simply say “bullshit” here)

In fact I would argue that it is those companies who should be seeking:

  1. To insure they had a really good insightful focused strategy which permits some flexibility
  2. To show as many sides of their personality/character as possible to show deepness of understanding into their audience.

But, hey, that’s me.

A couple of “shout outs” on this topic.

I would have to say that the best marketing agency I have seen in the marketplace implementing this idea is Goodby Silverstein. I don’t know if it’s Jeff or Rich or an ethos within their culture but they consistently keep executionally on a strategic direction but are flexible within the messaging to make it all not look the same.

I have worked with a bunch of great creative minds and I am sure there is a bunch out there who are really good thinkers on this topic but the absolute best thinker I have run across on this topic is Luke Sullivan. While I was a ‘variety branding’ believer before I met Luke he is the one who truly articulated how this thinking extended across large campaigns better than anyone I have ever heard talk about this.

Be sure.

Thinking about this idea and doing this idea are two different things.

It is very very easy to talk about.

But actually doing it is not for the faint of heart.

Takes some good smarts and big kahones.

Not so easy a caveman can do it, let me end with that.


The Geico Sarge therapist execution made me laugh my ass off.

Written by Bruce