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Aflac had a problem: Consumers did not seem to know what exactly its product was. They knew its famous quacking duck mascot, but they didn’t know why or when they might need the company. Such confusion made it difficult to sell its insurance offerings, which give payouts to members if they are injured and unable to work. Thus Aflac undertook a two-pronged effort to resolve the confusion and better establish its offering and appeal.

First, a comprehensive ad campaign, “Aflac Isn’t,” tackles the confusion head on. The televised advertisements feature people confronted with various challenges, such as storm damage to their home or the aftermath of a fender bender. The people ask if Aflac provides help in those situation, such as “Is it a car insurance company?” By rejecting these descriptions and answering “no” to each question, the ads define the offering by highlighting what it does not do.

Second, it pursued a collaboration and sponsorship opportunities with the Academy of Country Music. The link might not appear immediately obvious, but it has several convincing justifications for entering into this partnership. In particular, Aflac’s insurance product mainly benefits hourly workers, who would not earn wages if they could not work. It is less pertinent to salaried employees, who usually can take temporary sick leave and still get paid. In general, U.S. hourly workers earn lower incomes, and a common segmentation suggests that country music fans also tend to be blue collar workers. Thus, by appearing prominently during country music award shows and events, Aflac likely is communicating its message to its target market.

In addition, part of the collaboration involves an Aflac-sponsored award, given to a country music artist who has used music to contribute meaningfully to society. This year’s award winner Brandon Ray was cited for his ongoing efforts to visit hospitals and cheer up patients by singing at their bedsides. He visits children most of the time, but he also made special visits to victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting, which took place during a country music concert. With this pick, Aflac further solidified its connection with the country music community, in that both the award winner and Aflac are there for people who have been injured, helping them in their time of need.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is the collaboration between Aflac and the Academy of Country Music an appropriate one? Why or why not?
  2. What other marketing communication tactics could Aflac use to help consumers understand its offering better?


Source: Kyle O’Brien, “Behind Aflac’s Partnership with Country Music and Its Famous Duck,” The Drum, April 8, 2019