by Kevin Horne
Several iconic brands of note such as Heinz and Bumble Bee have recently revived once-memorable taglines, for nostalgic purposes or maybe because the newer ones weren't any good. Among them is Nationwide Insurance, who is bringing back its "on your side" theme. (If you're as old as I am, those three words will be enough of a hint to put you into full jingle-singing mode!)

To show it means it when it says it is on your side, Nationwide is launching an integrated campaign featuring "true stories" from "real employees." Here are some key excerpts from the company's press release announcing the campaign:
"?said Steven Schreibman, VP advertising and brand management: ?We're focused on enhancing the customer experience by reemphasizing -- and demonstrating -- what we mean when we say: Nationwide is On Your Side.' "
"?campaign will build on brand awareness to differentiate Nationwide from competitors by highlighting?outstanding personalized experience."
"Through these testimonies, the campaign shows the ends to which Nationwide will go to serve its customers."
Nationwide used Academy Award winning director Errol Morris to film a reported 100 employees. Six or so were picked for airing on TV and Web. You can see at least three of them here.
After reading Nationwide's press release and a few related trade articles, I was perplexed. After viewing the videos online, I was unimpressed. All in all, I'm left thinking Nationwide missed the mark on this one, especially given the high price tag of production (did I mention Errol Morris?).
Employee Testimonials?
Whatever happened to customer centricity? I understand the desire for authenticity, but in my mind customer testimonials would have taken authenticity to a whole ?nother level.
Competitive Opportunity?
Geico's parody of customer testimonials (Joan Rivers, James Lipton, et al.) was one punch line gone on way too long, and left the field wide open for Nationwide to show its true brand stripes.
Effective Testimonials?
The three employee bits I viewed on the Web all started with a reminder of why we hate insurance companies in the first place – not a great idea for a set-up. The first woman struggles to describe what she does ("insurance stuff"). The second woman talks about Nationwide's accident forgiveness feature?which, since everyone gets it, is neither "personalized" nor "service" (discuss). And the male employee segues from a boxing metaphor to "hope I never see you again." If this is what service means to the insurance industry, then you might do better talking about some other topic.
In the end, I didn't see competitive differentiation, a compelling benefit to me, a sense of what the service experience would be like, and I sure didn't have my heart tugged out of my chest. Which you should at least do with any testimonial if you're going to skip the first three items.

What do you think?

1) Should Nationwide have gone with customer testimonials instead of (or in addition to) the employee stories?
2) If you think the employee angle was OK, do you think the testimonials are effective in accomplishing Nationwide's stated goals? How might they be improved?
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Kevin Horne is an independent marketing strategist based in New York City, working with agency and digital partners on branding, communications, and relationship strategies. You can read his now-defunct blog at, or wait for the launch of his new site, which he promises will launch "any day now."

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Harry Joiner is an executive recruiter specializing in integrated marketing and "new media." He has been featured in MarketingSherpa's Great Minds in Marketing series and received coverage in the Wall Street Journal's Career Journal Online. According to Viral Garden's weekly rankings, Harry's weblog is one of the top 25 marketing weblogs in the world.