Defensive Strategy

State Farm’s 9/11 Tribute

12 Sep 2011  

Yesterday was a difficult day for marketing executives: what is the appropriate way to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks? Most advertisers wisely decided to ignore the event.

State Farm, however, invested heavily in a 9/11 spot and stood out as perhaps the most prominent advertiser of the day.

State Farm certainly invested. The company created a new 90 second spot, filmed by Spike Lee, featuring almost one hundred and
fifty school kids serenading firehouses in New York City with “Empire State of Mind.” State Farm then bought enormous amounts of time. I don’t watch a lot of television and I saw it three times.


State Farm succeeded on several fronts:

First, the spot creatively seems to work. It feels authentic and real. This is an accomplishment, because it could easily have seemed contrived.

Second, State Farm stood out as the biggest advertiser recognizing 9/11. When most companies took cover, State Farm stepped forward.

Third, the branding seems to work. It is hard to get more modest on the branding front, just the logo at the close of the spot. But the ad is so unique and engaging that it pulls you in.

So was it a good investment?

This is a very difficult question. Clearly the State Farm team can be proud of the effort. The spot enhanced the brand and paid tribute to a tragic event. But I’m not convinced it will motivate people to call State Farm instead of Geico; the spot is all about imagery with no attributes and little in the way of benefits.

2 Responses

  1. Evan says:

    I agree with the previous post and feel that this falls in line with State Farm’s long-standing campaign, “You’re in good hands.” What matters to me is this ad felt right. The song is about NYC, from an NYC-raised artist, an NYC-raised director, with NYC kids and firefighters. And from what I remember, it didn’t solicit donations, which strengthens it even more.

    Looking forward to your class this quarter!

  2. Robert Schwartz says:

    I’m not sure they’re going for a sales driven campaign here. If the goal is an investment in brand building and laddering I think State Farm succeeds greatly here. State Farm has been trying to sell its brand as “We Care” rather than Geico’s “We’re cheaper…. and funny”. Given that this is insurance and winning over the long term is the goal, I think it may prove to be a wise investment.

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