It likely did not feel like marketing magic when The Martin Agency combined insurance, a lizard and a British accent in 1999.
But alas, magic it became. More than 150 commercials later, the Geico gecko is one of the most recognizable commercial characters on television. In fact, the gecko came in third place in a survey of the most recognizable mascots by Crestline Custom Promotional Products.
The Starbucks’ green, two-tailed mermaid is America’s most recognizable product mascot with 95.6% of consumers identifying her correctly. Colonel Sanders was No. 2 with 95.1%, and the Geico gecko followed with 93%.
At the other end of the scale, only 5.9% of participants recognized Coco the Monkey from Coco Pops. And although the Duracell bunny first appeared in 1973 — 15 years before Energizer introduced its own nonstop rabbit as a parody — only 11% recognized the Duracell bunny compared with 83.6% recognition for Energizer’s rival version.
Crestline surveyed 1,630 U.S. consumers for its findings.
Among insurance-only mascots, the gecko clearly outpolled his mascot competition, the Geico caveman.
The gecko first appeared on Aug. 29, 1999, during the Screen Actors Guild strike that prevented the use of live actors. The original commercial features the Gecko voiced by actor Kelsey Grammer who climbs onto a microphone on a podium and utters "This is my final plea: I am a gecko, not to be confused with GEICO, which could save you hundreds on car insurance. So, STOP CALLING ME!" before licking his eye.
Over the years, the character evolved as computer animation improved. The character is not only likeable, but also persuasive:
The Dennis Haysbert character has proven worth the investment for Allstate. A longtime actor, Haysbert has been the official spokesman for the Allstate Insurance Company since 2004.
His commercials typically end with one of the two Allstate official slogans, either "Are you in good hands?" or "That's Allstate's stand." More recently however his commercials have combined the two with "That's Allstate's stand. Are you in good hands?"
He has also appeared in Spanish-language commercials with the line "Con Allstate, Estás En Buenas Manos." (With Allstate, you're in good hands).
The Aflac Duck has appeared to run its course, if the Crestline survey is any indication. Since December 1999, the Aflac Duck has frustratedly quacked the company's name to unsuspecting prospective policy holders. The duck concept and all of the commercials to date have been created by Kaplan Thaler Group, an advertising agency based in New York City.
Here are some other findings from the survey:
- Most Endangered: The Keebler elves aren’t aging well. There’s a huge “recognition gap” between older and younger Americans, with only 37.5% of Gen Z able to identify them vs. 95.2% of Baby Boomers.
- Most Hated: Mr. Mucus from Mucinex gets no love from American consumers.
- Flo vs. the Gecko: In a popularity contest, which insurance mascot comes out on top? The gecko, with a likeability score of 7.80 on a scale of 1-10. Flo’s score was only 6.98.
- Who’s sexier: Mr. Clean or the Brawny man? We’ll give you a hint; plaid is making a comeback.
- Mistaken Identity: Columbia Pictures’ “lady with a torch” mascot is among America’s most-often-mistaken mascots. More consumers linked her with rival movie studios than her own (35.8% named competitors vs. 32.4% who named Columbia Pictures).