Daily Archives: March 4th, 2010

Let’s get Progressively critical

Watch this commercial. Now, ask yourself, “What is the main theme here?” What is the message that Progressive wants you to take away after investing 30 seconds of your life to watch their persuasion attempt?

We offer lots of discounts that will save you money.

Cool. That’s a good response. There are no right or wrong answers here. 🙂

Let’s analyze the commercial a bit further, though. Let’s put on our critical thinking caps. I mean, it would be unwise to simply absorb what advertisers want directly into our brains without checking it out first, right?

Flo asks: “Are you a safe driver?”
Customer: “Yes.”
Flo responds: “Discount.”

OK, this is an easy one. What did we just learn here? If you don’t have a good enough driving record you will pay more.

Eh, what? I thought this commercial was about “discounts.” Well, one person’s discount is apparently another person’s surcharge. But we’re well-trained customers of insurance by now. We know that it’s perfectly reasonable to pay more based on crummy driving records.

Speaking of training, if we want to dig a bit deeper into critical thought here: The word “safe” in this context is actually a euphemism. Without even realizing it we’re also buying into the concept that our driving records are valid indicators of “safe” driving.

Flo asks: “Do you own a home?”
Customer: “Yes.”
Flo responds: “Discount.”

What? Now this is getting a little out there. If we rent (not buy) our home then we have to pay more? Why? What’s up with that? Something tells me the answer has to do with actuary tables and “risk” and things like that.

Flo asks: “Are you gonna buy online?”
Customer: “Yes.”
Flo responds: “Discount!!!”

Whoa. This one really excited her. If you order by phone or go in the store you’ll also pay more. The web site is the holy grail of retail. When it works properly, it acts as a buffer between the business and the icky icky customer.

See how every single time Flo uses the word “discount” she’s actually talking about segments of their customer base who actually have to pay more? It certainly doesn’t sound quite as exciting when you think of it like that.

So, if you are a customer with a bad driving record who isn’t buying your own home and won’t be buying online, you really need to be wary of this particular persuasion attempt. If you walk away thinking that Progressive has discounts for you and can save you money you’ve really gotten the wrong idea.

Of course, that’s exactly the point. That’s exactly the way the persuasion attempt was designed to work on your brain. And that is a very “progressive” sort of thing.

Heck, I think something as drug-induced as a gecko selling insurance might even make more sense. 🙂