State Farm and The Marketing Arm score the Grand Ex with a cause marketing campaign that showed us all that customers care about their communities—and corporate values
Smart marketers know that millennials are finicky about the brands they give their loyalty to. More than any other generation before them, they care about what their favorite brands stand for.
State Farm’s research revealed that 70 percent of millennials and Gen Xers love to volunteer, but only 25 percent actually do it. So the brand set out to close what it called the “intention gap” with an experiential marketing program that answered the question: What if we could transform good intentions into action all over America?
The heart of the resulting Neighborhood of Good program beat with the spirit of philanthropy, supported by locally relevant, easy-to-access volunteer opportunities across events, digital engagements and meaningful face-to-face experiences. The simple premise: State Farm would help consumers turn caring into doing while proving what it stands for in the process.
“We know that the ‘new adult’ millennial audience is really looking for ways to have community and worldwide impact—that’s something that’s very important to them,” says Mandy Garner Laux, State Farm’s brand content and experiential manager. “Their willingness to do business with a brand that shares that value of giving back and making a positive difference—you definitely see that correlation.”
Online, consumers could engage with the campaign by popping their zip code into neighborhoodofgood.com and then selecting from dozens of charitable causes within their communities—right then and right there.
From March to December, volunteer events across the country led by “Good Neighbor Crews” (brand ambassadors) brought the program to life. At the events, instead of filling bags with swag, attendees packed meals for at-risk youth, assembled foster care packages and put together school supplies for families in need. And there were signature national cornerstone events, too. Throughout the month of May, for instance, State Farm hosted events to help end childhood hunger during Hunger Awareness Month.
And they didn’t stop there. Last summer, the brand infused volunteerism into summer activations at music festivals including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Lost Lake and Faster Horses. Inside its #HereToHelp Lounges, augmented reality, micro-volunteering and custom cause posters gave festivalgoers a fresh viewpoint on their local neighborhood’s greatest needs. Local artists played acoustic sets and talked about how they like to give back. And in September, State Farm recognized Good Neighbor Day, a 40-year-old one-day celebration created by President Jimmy Carter, all month long by unleashing a series of activations across community events that encouraged consumers to take a few minutes to help out local nonprofits.
Paid ads and media integrations infused the entire strategy into TV broadcasts, and amplified it through celebrity influencer partnerships, putting it on the national stage with morning shows and primetime programs including NBC’s “Today” show, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and sitcom “Black-ish.” Comedian and “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson served as one of several celebrity and social media influencers enlisted to talk about the campaign.
“We know that the ‘new adult’ millennial audience is really looking for ways to have community and worldwide impact—that’s something that’s very important to them.”
Good to Great
By the end of its run, the program had generated 17,000 volunteer hours and 156,000 acts of good. The website logged more than two million visits and volunteer searches (and counting). And of course, the campaign generated a boost in both awareness and an influx of leads to State Farm’s 19,000-member sales force. In every market the campaign touched, the brand’s agents worked side-by-side with consumers and volunteers, creating a physical—and meaningful—manifestation of the brand’s tagline “Here to help life go right.” Post-program surveys resonated with the program’s strategy and energy, showing that 50 percent of current customers and 31 percent of non-customers said the brand was “committed to improving communities and helping people.”
“Giving back and being present in communities is really in the culture and DNA of our company,” Laux says. “We’ve been giving back to communities and helping make a positive difference for nearly 100 years. It’s why, authentically, we can be in this space and help be that catalyst and help be that resource—because we are those people in the community, we are the next door neighbor that can help and can have a positive impact through our agents and employees.”
Neighborhood of Good represented the possibilities and the promise of where experiential marketing can go. It was the campaign that we all needed—even though we didn’t know we needed it. And it’s the campaign that will transform the way marketers think about how events and live experiences can illuminate a brand’s corporate values in a way that’s real. And true. And authentic.
State Farm tapped right into the zeitgeist of current culture in a way that resonated completely with its corporate values. In a year marked by divisiveness it served as a bright light—a uniting force that not only delivered on its marketing objectives, it delivered on a bigger promise to be a good neighbor by helping consumers be good neighbors, too.
“The movement we’re trying to create is to really ensure, encourage and help people do anything big or small to help them make a positive difference in their neighborhood,” says Laux. “It also represents some of the good things that we’re doing from a brand perspective to help make our communities safer, stronger and better educated. We really have that belief that together, we can have a positive impact.”