Over the past year I have had the excellent good fortune to get to know Rod Brooks, VP and CMO of PEMCO, through various word-of-mouth marketing events. It’s difficult to imagine a warmer, more authentic, more visionary leader for such a warm, authentic, visionary brand. I have heard Rod speak 3 or 4 times now, and each time, I feel more compelled to stand up and cheer and clap and say “YES! This is how it should BE!” I am continually inspired by the bold, consumer-focused marketing he and his team are doing at PEMCO.
Here are five things that PEMCO has nailed, from my perspective.
1. They had the excellent sense to realize that their customers really don’t want to talk about insurance. After all, as Rod points out, insurance is odd in that you spend a lot of money on something you hope to never use. But when PEMCO invested time in really listening to their customers, they discovered that they *did* want to talk about their homes, their habits, their neighbors, and what makes them unique. This critical insight helped PEMCO carve out both a competitive niche and a creative point of view, celebrating the quirky facets of local life through its Northwest Profiles campaign, which immortalizes local characters like “Ponytailed Software Geek” and “First Snowflake Freakout Lady” and proclaims “We’re a lot like you. A little different.”
2. They have had the courage to stick with this memorable, extensible campaign for several years. They introduce new profiles as needed to keep things fresh and support their expansion into new Northwest markets (most recently, “Flawless Firewood Stacker” and “Portland Food Cartlandian“), but they haven’t succumbed to the temptation to break out some flashy new campaign once or twice a year like so many brands do. As a result, the campaign itself has become a local touchstone with meaningful roots and street cred. PEMCO fans can create their own profiles, suggest new ones, and even make trading cards.
3. They are truly committed to hearing and being led by the voice of the customer. Rod’s last presentation opened with a quote from a customer that said simply, “PEMCO gets it!” I frequently pull consumer quotes for inspiration in my work, and this one is a gem–crisp, memorable, and broadly applicable. Rod told me that they begin every executive meeting at PEMCO with a real customer story. I can’t think of any business that wouldn’t benefit from such a simple, focusing practice.
4. They have one of the most elegant and inspiring mission statements I’ve ever heard: “We enable and protect the dreams of responsible Northwest people.” Early on, they made the strategic decision to focus on “preferred-risk” policyholders in the Pacific Northwest–and this clarity about both their audience and their offering helps them stand out from the competition with a local angle and a distinctive voice.
5. They don’t just say they are local; they live and breathe it, supporting and participating in the Northwest community in enthusiastic and fun ways. They host a running pre-game foosball tournament at Sounders FC games. They hand out soup and coffee at the Polar Plunge in Eugene and show up at the Northwest Center with their WALLY (short for “We’re A Lot Like You”) van stuffed with 920 pounds of clothing donated by PEMCO employees.
If PEMCO can make insurance this fun and talkable, really, there’s an angle in for any product, category, or brand.