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Esurance's Rise Is Driven by DR

1 Sep, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response

Esurance's Rise Is Driven by DR

i1"Esurance was built on the direct response marketing channels of search engine marketing and affiliate partnerships," says Darren Howard, media director, direct marketing, for San Francisco-based insurance leader Esurance Inc. "While our mix has evolved over time, the vast majority of our marketing is focused on direct response, although not in the traditional view."

The company's core product — auto insurance coverage — is now available in 30 states and Esurance has expanded during its 10-year history to offer other insurance products through affiliate partnerships, including: homeowners, renters, health and life insurance. And while the initial online push helped Esurance survive the dot-com crash earlier this decade, its utilization of DR marketing has expanded across all media, including the hugely successful "Erin Esurance" TV campaign that debuted in 2004 and is still running strong today.

"A large part of our business is still driven by the 'pull' DR marketing channels of non-branded search marketing and affiliate partners," says Howard, who joined Esurance in 2006. "However, over time, offline 'push' marketing channels have grown in importance. In these channels, we talk about savings opportunities and discounts, and drive people to, or to call 1-800-ESURANCE to get a quote. However, we do not use a hard-sell message of 'call now, operators standing by' that you might hear in traditional DR advertising."

This strategy has allowed Esurance to utilize DR to expand not only its customer base, but also its brand awareness. "Despite the rumored demise of TV, we find that it continues to be a great megaphone and gives brands credibility with consumers," Howard contends. "We launched local TV in mid-2004 with our animated icon, Erin Esurance, and followed with the launch of national TV in late 2005. Since our TV launch, brand awareness among online consumers has grown to the point where we are now in the same consideration set as our larger competitors: Geico and Progressive."

Core Values Combine With Creativity

Earning its way into the competitive set with such well-known auto insurance brands was a decade-long process for the team at Esurance. However, the company's executive team — led by Gary Tolman, president and CEO — has strongly stuck by its core values that are customer-focused, while leveraging technology to create a responsive and forward-thinking insurance company.

Such consistency is the backbone of success for a Web-based company that was created in 1999, less than 24 months before the dot-com crash. Esurance survived that crash when it was purchased by the publicly traded White Mountains Insurance Group Ltd. (NYSE: WTM) in October 2000. Since the purchase, the company's fortunes have gone nowhere but up, it has grown from $4 million in written premiums in 2000 to $826 million in 2008.

Howard says, "We sell auto insurance policies directly in 30 states, and these states account for approximately 90 percent of the U.S. population. We currently insure nearly 500,000 drivers."

As media director, Howard manages media planning and buying across all offline channels, as well as streaming radio, online video and branded search. "My team is focused on the company's direct marketing efforts that lead people to enter directly into their browsers, search for us with branded terms through one of the search engines, or call us to get a quote," Howard says.

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About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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