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What does an emu have to do with insurance?

Can we talk a moment about “Limu Emu,” erstwhile mascot for Liberty Mutual? (I’ve never used erstwhile in a sentence before–can check that one off the list.)

On the one hand, ads featuring Limu Emu & Doug have been somewhat entertaining and through simple repetition effectively convey that Liberty Mutual is where you “only pay for what you need.” That’s good because no one likes paying for things they don’t need, like $800 military-grade toilet seats.

As a branding device, though, the campaign falls short. It was only after 178 viewings that I saw the name “Limu” as short for Liberty Mutual. Maybe that’s just me being slow, but in this case, I don’t think so.

The problem is that Liberty Mutual is not known as LiMu. They don’t even use the nickname on their website. So “LiMu Emu” is easily taken to be a random, meaningless character unrelated to Liberty Mutual or its brand promise.

Mascots and spokespeople should have a quick and easily understood connection to the brands they support. A gecko for Geico reminds us of its name. Any major athlete for Nike or Gatorade reminds us of its efficacy. Chantix’ “slow turkey” dramatizes the message that quitting smoking can be gradual, vs. going “cold turkey.”

To build brand familiarity, find natural connections, then repeat them often, in relevant contexts.

Written by Neal Stamell - Neal has more than 30 years of experience working on Fortune 500 companies. His expertise lies in consumer insights, strategy, and integrated marketing.

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