Dec 22, 2023
45 min
Episode 52

TOP CMO: Alyson Griffin, Statefarm - 'Branding Beyond Boundaries'

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  00:00

It's just marketing. We get so wrapped up in afraid if you're making reasonable risks, we don't have to be afraid. 

Ben Kaplan  00:07

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups. Three ideas package a certain way want to spread, we want to be told that someone else's simple, surprising and significant. Unlocking viral creativity is to make it rapidly scalable. This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. today I'm chatting with Alyson Griffin of State Farm, one of the largest insurance providers in the US.


Jake from State Farm. State Farm is there my good neighbor, Jake from State Farm, a really good deal. With more

Ben Kaplan  00:44

than 25 years of experience, Alyson has navigated the worlds of tech insurance and more pioneering initiatives that bridge storytelling and business strategy. While Intel, she was instrumental in developing b2b campaigns, and building an outbound marketing team from scratch. So how do you innovate in an industry that is often considered risk averse? And what does it mean to align a company's culture with its external marketing campaigns? Let's find out with Alyson Griffin. Alyson, you have a background that gets a star in pharmacy of all things. More recently, you've been at HP and Intel, which you worked on both the b2c and b2b sides. But that's usually not the training ground we think of for what's going to lead into like a really big consumer marketing company like State Farm Insurance. So it's actually you think in your mind more similar than at first glance, this sort of training ground that you had with tech Silicon Valley to get to State Farm? Yeah.

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  01:48

Well, Ben, thank you so much for having me, I'm super excited to share. I feel very fortunate that I am representing state farm as a brand. It's It's iconic these days. And it is my pleasure to get to work here at the company with with so many people who have built the brand over the years. And like you said, I've only been here for two years, I had a bulk of my career, almost 29 years was in Silicon Valley and in the tech industry. And it was kind of I know, people must have been scratching their heads like what, what got you from HP and Intel over to insurance. And I think about that all three brands are very similar in their marketing challenge. All three are very long histories right? 50 or 75 years? 100 years? That's not exactly right. But pretty accurate. Intel, HP and State Farm Sure.

Ben Kaplan  02:39

50 years and in Silicon Valley time is you're there for a while. So yes, they are legacies, understood brands and a ton of brand awareness, right, you're not struggling to make people realize that you exist. Exactly.

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  02:50

And that was it. And so I was very fortunate to get to participate in brands that none of them have an awareness problem anywhere in the world where they sell their product. And the same is true with with State Farm in the United States, which is where it sells its product. But what all three have in common from a marketing challenge perspective is relevance. Let me tell you, when I was at HP on the printer and PC side, if you think it's easy to get young folks to print, and that is a big way that HP makes its money as ink and toner, believe me, nobody's printing anymore. And I say that jokingly, not nobody and not nothing. But there's a relevance there, especially with younger and younger generations who don't think of oh, I'm going to print out a boarding pass for my airline on my phone, as example. And even

Ben Kaplan  03:41

if let's say they didn't need to print, they might not want to do engagement experience about printing, even if they might need to print occasionally their boarding pass or something like that. Right. So there's relevance issues there too, just in the conversation. That's

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  03:54

right, fair. Exactly. And then within tell it's a silicon chip, right. So again, it's not that people aren't aware of Intel, but they don't understand the relevance. They typically user of Intel technology might not even know that Intel is powering the thing that they're using, they know the maybe the name brand of the actual piece of technology that they're using. And so that it was similar to state farm where big brand in the United States, you know, loved respected all of those things. But let's be honest, not anybody really is thinking about insurance every day. It's not a sexy, fun category. And therefore the marketing challenges are similar. How

Ben Kaplan  04:34

do you start thinking about relevance in a category where maybe insurance isn't that sexy, but certainly there's a lot of advertisers it's a well funded category. So there's a lot of ways and companies have different positioning, I'm thinking other things that competitor or maybe they're gonna like personify the negative the disaster that's gonna come your way and that's kind of their positioning and they sort of originated a character to do it is relevance. For you more of where you're at, meaning, if we have different channels, and there's emerging channels, and we want to be where people are having conversations, or is it more time based for you, you know, what's happening on this day in this month and this year? And that's relevance, or is it all of that? How do you think about being relevant

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  05:16

if all of it, and that's the thing, right, that's the challenge. So for us, we have a very known asset, Jake, from State Farm, that's one of our brand assets, that's probably the most visible but really, the reason he's special, and connects with younger audiences, actually audiences across the board, but including younger audiences, is we we use that asset to lean into who we are as a good neighbor. So he's not there to talk about the disaster. He's not a cartoon, he's not a caricature, he's meant to be the personification of like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. And when we can think and stay true to that, he can shine. And we you know, have him we've got obviously the the sound, the jingle, I'll call it the notes of like a good neighbor, State Farm is there, the notion of that tagline, we have the khakis and red Polo. And we have our logos, you know, the three oval logo. So my point is we use various assets in different ways audio visual, and even personified to make sure that at the end of the day, our value proposition is coming through, which is helping more people in more ways and being that good neighbor. And that is foundational to what State Farm is and does all day every day. And from a marketing perspective, we try to find the opportunities with the various assets that we have to make sure that message comes through First and foremost,

Ben Kaplan  06:50

meeting if State Farm is your good neighbor, then how is my good neighbor relevant in all of these contexts and things happening and platforms? Whether we're talking web three in the metaverse or we're talking more traditional, you want that neighbor to be there. And I think for those who don't know, the origination of the 92nd version, and Jake from State Farm, just the origination there was originally Jake from State Farm who wore khakis and a red polo, who actually was a State Farm employee who had a limited role in line but became popular How did this go from that we're gonna put an employee in an ad to something that has this big life in marketing.

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  07:26

So way back when we used to agent real agents and real employees in in some advertising and that what are you wearing famous ad where the wife thinks that her husband in the middle of the night is talking to someone he shouldn't be? And it's Jake from State Farm and those what are you wearing, and he says, khakis. So that was the origination right? So a fun, a fun spot. And he really is a call center employee. And he really is Jake, and he really wears khakis. So it started in grounding in a real a real story. And then as the company was advertising, he was realizing that there was they're building some equity around the one word Jake from State Farm, and really wanted to lean into that, and see if we could personify our brand and separate ourselves differently from the other insurers because you mentioned it before it is a crowded category. And and it's it's loud people, all in our category are advertising a lot. And so how do you create a value proposition and stand aside so that Jake from State Farm was getting some credibility? And we realized, Alright, it's time we need to hire an actor. We need somebody who has the breadth, the skills, the time to really create this character more fully. Could

Ben Kaplan  08:41

have been a bit before your time. But what were the factors that let you said, We're confident enough to invest in this, this moves the needle for us, as opposed to just being a hey, it's a cool campaign, we did a fun spot. People seem to like it. Let's get going. Yeah, it was

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  08:54

before my time. So I don't know all the detail of everything. But they were measuring awareness and affinity and all those just like typical brand measures in that, that Jake from State Farm character and being able to use this sort of helpful good neighbor to talk about the messages that we wanted to talk about in the market that given time it was getting traction, and they found they're like, well, we don't want to just abandon this, we want to lean into it, but we can't do it with a person who's not an actor. And that's not their full time job and they don't have the breath in the rain. So so I don't know that it was thought that it would be this, you know, forever long term thing. But they thought look, we've got to lean in and get somebody who's got a little more range so we can do more with the character and see where it goes. And then I'll tell you this I do know about is two Super Bowls ago. So the year before that. The brief for the Superbowl commercial that we did was very simple. And I think if I was a creative I would have been really excited to get it and it was make J I'm famous, and Drake from State Farm was our Super Bowl ad. And I mean the the explosion on Twitter at the time. And there was already this undercurrent of understanding of that character, but that Super Bowl ad with Drake really open the dam, if you will. So

Ben Kaplan  10:21

now you have an actor Ken Mills who have been miles or miles who plays Jake from State Farm. And what is interesting about that as an asset is how you've deployed how you've leveraged other assets. State Farm does a lot of celebrity marketing, and I think your roster includes couple amazing quarterbacks, Patrick mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Chris Paul, from basketball pairing Jake with these other known entities, what is the thought process there? And it's sort of like if you're gonna kind of build up this asset you own you, you have a great partnership with Patrick mahomes. You don't own Patrick mahomes. So you have this other asset that you do. Oh, and how do you think about connecting it with other things that you're doing? So

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  10:58

we only use the celebrity endorsers endemically? So what I mean is Patrick mahomes is only used in commercials that play in football, we don't have him in general market, for example, Chris Paul is, and actually and around Chris, the last two NBA seasons, we've had a host of NBA players, in addition to Chris, that's a very, very long season. And content were out is is you know, we have to create more content around basketball than we do around football. So getting more people to tell the story, but they're always with Jake. And then Jake manages general market by himself as an asset and, you know, based on storylines that we're trying to tell. So I say that to say one of the reasons that we've had success with the celebrity endorsement is we're not trying to just use a celebrity for celebrity sake. We are saying if you're a football fan, and you're watching football, and you see a quarterback, there's an endemic connection there for you. And the breakthrough, the brand recognition is higher than if it if we didn't have endemic spots. We do it in gaming as well. We have real gamers in gaming commercials. So that strategy of using celebrities endemically in the right space to the right audience seems to be what works. In addition to those that type of celebrity. We've been leaning into social media influencers as well. campaign by campaign depending on what story we're trying to tell or what reach we're trying to do. So in our most recent Super Bowl campaign, in addition to the world's biggest tip Docker kabhi, he and Jake did a social media post together, and we can talk about that later if you want. But in addition to that, we had 13 additional social media influencers that were all engaging with Jake, and surrounding the story again, so that endemically where people were engaging with State Farm stadium challenge, they had a connection to the person that was delivering the message.

Ben Kaplan  13:10

State Farm is a great example of context specific celebrity and influencer endorsements hold


on is that Drake is right. Drake from State Farm. All right, who called falooda. Christian you forgot to to brush Jimmy Fallon, like a good neighbor State Farm is their celebrity endorsements

Ben Kaplan  13:26

can sell products, even when the star outshines the brand, because as humans, we're hardwired to follow the lead of high status high prestige individuals in a group by aligning our gays are copying their decisions. That's actually evolutionary biology, like looking in a mirror, right? It doesn't mean a celebrity can make you choose a product that you hate your strong preferences. If you absolutely love or hate something may not change. But there's still a lot of wiggle room with products, you might not yet have strong feelings about celebrities help you determine those feelings faster. Do you want to kind of get into other forms of media that State Farm is utilized? Because you might not think a traditional insurance agency that's a big TV ad buyer would be playing in all the places you are. But take us through the decision, which was I think, notable this year. I mean, someone said that they create a few headlines that you were not a Superbowl ad buyer this year. When was the last time you weren't a Superbowl ad buyer? Or do you go back and forth? We've

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  14:23

gone in and out in the past. And like I said, I've only been here two years. But I will tell you that we have the naming rights this year. So the Super Bowl was played at State Farm Stadium in Arizona. Okay, so

Ben Kaplan  14:34

you're saying we're part of the Super Bowl, you can't really ignore that part? What is the incremental benefit of an ad and in his reply to schools of thought, but that either you run the ads because you want to reinforce it build on the asset you have or you're like, we're already in this it's just redundancy or minimal incremental. Let's go do something else. And you picked door B in this case for in this

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  14:56

case we did and it was an experiment. You know, we've had really good success With Superbowl commercials, and you may see us in a Superbowl commercial in the future, right? It's not the comment isn't that it television is dead or we're no longer doing it. It was, look, we have to make strategic choices that are smart, that maximize our name and maximize our assets to the fullest. And so because we had naming rights we had never seen we don't aren't aware of somebody who had naming naming rights, who leaned into it quite the way we did. So we created a social media post with Kabi on Tik Tok 150 5 million. He's the number one on that platform. So we're like, Alright, let's go work with him. And what's so beautiful about these isn't say a word. He's got this signature shrug. And we thought that we would tell a provocative story. And so it goes there's like an ad agency who's trying to pitch Jake and Kabi on a big spectacular Superbowl commercial. And basically copy goes because he's standing outside of State Farm stadium he's like, do you really need to do that? Okay, you're

Ben Kaplan  16:05

acting it out. Now you're doing his kind of signature pose hands up kind of doing that doing the thing that people know you're doing that and you had that and did you have I know you said yet other influencers and you're embracing Tik Tok. So, did you have other influencers in their own lanes or channels? Or did you try to connect them together with this obviously, very, very big influencer on Tik Tok,

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  16:25

they were all pointing back to the that hero post if you well, but they were all telling a story about State Farm stadium challenge in their own signature way to their own audiences. We weren't controlling that. We wanted to lean in to these creators and take advantage of their unique position. And their unique storytelling. And it worked really well. So while the viewership of the Superbowl was 113 million, I think Rihanna had 118 million, the single copy post had 220 million views. So we we feel like with the naming rights and the television focus, the chatter around State Farm stadium challenge the earned media right, there was PR and stuff around it, you mentioned that, as well as the influencers across social platforms. And on tick tock, actually, we even ran the Tick Tock post as a tick tock post on linear television, we used our media buys in the weeks leading up to the big game, to have a QR enabled code on television, which I think was, you know, there was probably a certain subset of audience age wise, who was like, what is that? Which was fine, right? But all of it to be honest, Ben is around test and learn, right? It's look there. How many times am I going to be able to use a media buy on television, digital streaming, digital, social, all at the same time, and influencers and each with QR codes, so I know exactly where people are coming in from, and test and learn and understand how all of this is performing all around a major moment. And so you were asking earlier? Is it the moments that you're after, or the place where to be? And I said it's all of it. And that's a really good example, is being open marketers being open to new ways of thinking, trying something different, embracing change, and saying, you know, look, we don't have to do everything the same old way, and we just might get more engagement and more eyeballs. And in this case, we did, you're

Ben Kaplan  18:33

speaking my language with a sort of a testing learning our agency is called top, which is an acronym stands for test, optimize, and perform or test to optimize and scale performance. We love that. There's some marketing leaders listening who are like, Yes, I'm with you. I'm doing this and there's some listening who might be saying, I'm with you, oh, my God. We would love to be able to test and learn with Super Bowl naming rights. And the number one influencer on Tik Tok doing a post, that's a luxurious way to test and learn. So for everyone else, take us through how you think about testing and learning. If it's not always at the Superbowl, and your advice from others of what you've learned, I don't know if you have insights, even from this year's Super Bowl about what you're looking forward to next. If you don't have that kind of reach or budget that a State Farm has, I think

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  19:18

it's all about your mindset and being open to doing something different with like new technology. So for instance, a couple years ago, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick mahomes, were going to play each other in a game and in the month of November, that never happens. I mean, they're not in the same conference. So they don't and they're they're two of our quarterbacks are spokespeople. And so we wanted to do something big and different, because, hey, you know, it's team State Farm, and we decided to do an augmented reality game. And one of the things we gave away was an NF T. And it didn't necessarily cost a lot. It wasn't necessarily testing around the Super Bowl. It was not a big moment. Maybe for anyone who was than the chiefs are a Packers fan, my husband has a diehard Niners fan wouldn't necessarily have paid attention to that game, for example, but we Rhett recognized, hey, we can say there's a team State Farm challenge going on. And we can make that a moment for us. And we don't have to spend a lot of money. And we leaned into NF T's which way back then November of 2021, I think we're only six months old. So you have to remember the mindset. There. Were not any brands, really many giving it away NF T's and we were saying, Look, we're not going to take money if you sell it, all that kind of stuff. So we hired a couple of really great graphic artists. And we gave away you know, some and a lot of NF T's but rarer and rarer. Right? My point is, we use that not a huge investment. Not a big tentpole moment, like the Superbowl, but it was we we saw it, we saw it as an opportunity to make a thing out of a thing. That's English, and, and to go say, why don't we try it? Because I mean, the other thing that I'd say to marketers is, it's just marketing, I think we get so wrapped up in afraid, and we don't have to be afraid because I mean, if you're making reasonable risks, and you're somebody who is, is doing, you know, if you're an executive is doing its job of, of making sure we're not making crazy decisions. But these are all things that are reasonable marketing decisions, that, you know, in the past, what we would have done is rolled up to that game and passed out T shirts. So this at least took t shirt passing out to a different level, right? So we're gonna do better than we did when we just passed out T shirts for the people who were there on the ground. And that's how we looked at it. And that and that's my mindset. And I think that there's some brands like chat, GBT is the other or a new, you know, Coke and, and even Nike is doing some stuff with NF T's and coke with Dolly and chat, GBT anyone, you don't have to have a big brand or a big budget to go say, I want to experiment with? How can I get more efficient by copywriting with my agencies with chat GBT, for example. Or just taking some of those risks. And I think that that is probably instilled in me from my tech upbringing. And you're right, that an insurance company doesn't love risk. But I'm smart enough to know the kind of risk that my insurance company isn't willing to take. And smart enough to know that if we don't push what got us here won't get us there.

Ben Kaplan  22:34

And part of that is where it seems feeling. This is an understanding that you're in a traditional industry. There's people who are older who grown up with State Farm, but there's this question back to relevance or embracing change, where there's, if you're, I assume going after whether that's Millennials or Generation Z or others, if you want to reach them, it doesn't make sense to do things the way you've always done if something new is going to be more effective. And is it actually more risky, to hold on to things that just aren't relevant? If that's the audience, I assume, you're trying to go after? Because of spending power and making more decisions and becoming head of households and wanting State Farm to be the Good Neighbor that's there for them? Yes, exactly.

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  23:19

And, you know, I'll admit to that it's small steps and small chunks, your point of we did a lot and did well, I'll say, television advertising, right? That is the main muscle memory of the marketing department circa three years ago, where it had it down efficiency wise, got to a really great price with creative and was on a roll with visibility on television, I came in and said, hey, just as an example, this is not accurate. But instead of 95% of our spend on television, why don't we take that down a little bit and increase our digital spend. Right. So just the point of a little bit. Let's start there. Let's start playing in digital a little more, which then creates new assets and different mindsets, which then got us thinking differently about Jake from State Farm, which then said I think he needs to be on Tik Tok. So we don't have to advertise on tick tock, I'm not I don't have an ad on tick. Tock, Jake from State Farm has a tick tock account. So I'm very fortunate that when someone's scrolling, it doesn't appear to be like when an ad interrupts or scroll. This is I'm following this really cool, good neighbor that I love and hangs out with celebrities and has great drip. I mean, his clothes are phenomenal, right? Stuff like that. And that's where all these things didn't happen all at once. It was these incremental decisions that said, first do this, then try that then go there. And the next thing you know, two years later, right, we're really innovating. In and have, you know, have really pushed the boundaries of what an insurance mascot could mean to people out there.

Ben Kaplan  25:09

Marketing is much like a series of science experiments. Each campaign begins with a hypothesis, an idea to test and explore. You set it into motion. Observe the results, and success or setback. Each outcome is a treasure trove of insights for the next experiments. What most marketing people forget to do with any experiment is to define what success looks like ahead of time. How will you measure the result? And what specific result will you need to see to pursue the results tested further, or kill it for good? defining what success looks like ahead of time, aligns the entire marketing team that helps marketing experiments become more efficient, and effective? How do you think about the personification that idea of personifying the good neighbor, let me throw another brand at you that is famous for a campaign that involves personification, another famous advertiser, which is Apple, and Apple is known for many groundbreaking campaigns, but in particular one that is a personification is this, I'm a Mac, I'm a PC, and let's draw the contrast. And I got an actor who has since become pretty famous, Justin Long doing this I'm a Mac, and embodying these kinds of values, and he doesn't have the, you know, he's looking not so conservative, more relaxed guy, fun guy to hang out with, and all of that, how much do you look at other examples, this idea of a live person who's a mascot? And other examples of that, and how much do you kind of look at other people like an apple, and how much you lean? There's also risk with a person, something a person's a real person, something can happen to that person, as well.

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  26:45

We talked about that a lot, actually. Because it can be two things like, you know, it could be something happens to them, or they do something. And it could be with one of the celebrities as well. One of your influencers. I mean, it's definitely a thing. So I loved that Apple Mac campaign. And I'll tell you that I was at Hewlett Packard on the PC business at the time, and I hated that campaign. I say that lovingly. I thought it was brilliant, actually, and I think personifying your brand is important, especially today, you know, younger generations more so than when I was young, you know, the Gen X, or that I am, younger folks care a lot about what a brand stands for who they are, what they do. Some people don't really make buying decisions that way completely, depending on the category, but it's important that they understand and know. And I think for us, we're in a nebulous, weird category, again, that people just aren't excited about. And so we've got to use whatever we can to be able to break through to not only share our values, but to show our value. And and those are two things. And you know, we think not a cartoon, not a caricature, not trying to show all the bad things that happened, but really, who we are as a brand is optimistic and supportive and neighborly, and so it works. And I think pushing that asset I don't I don't think we knew that right away. We knew that that Jake from State Farm sort of idea was smart and starting to work. But now with this, you know, sort of reboot, if you will not original Jake, who was an actual employee, but now pushing the asset further, we've we've seen that that story can get told in multiple ways, and in the metaverse in real life on television and online. Does Jake have

Ben Kaplan  28:38

khaki pants in the metaverse course? Yes. Explain that. The Metaverse I think that's interesting. What will segue the next? Explain what you're actually doing in the metaverse as people are trying to make sense of Is this a real thing is, is it not? Gosh, Mark Zuckerberg seems to rename his whole company about this, but then what's going on and talk about your willingness to experiment there? And what Jake is doing in the metaverse?

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  29:01

Yeah, so several years ago, we had Jake is the first non playable character in NBA 2k. And it was it was authentic because we are big basketball. Advertisers, right? We sponsored the league, you can't see a slam dunk without a State Farm stanchion, right, the padding around the basket. And so we were already heavily in basketball and thought, hey, let's see if we can get Jake as a non playable character. And there were many, many, many levels of testing that we thought we can do there and I'll rattle them off really fast, but I want to say them because it'll just give you a sense on our mindset. So we're like, look, is anybody going to come up to if they're playing NBA? 2k? Are they going to come up to an insurance branded character like why would they do that? Right? So if they do, what's the dwell time? Meaning how long did they talk if they talk will the person follow him into the neighborhood good store where by the way we sell skins of khaki, And red polos, shirts, different outfits that you can buy and wear around NBA 2k If you wanted to. So all of those were levels of, you know, Jake's wearing khakis, Kenny and Tice. And I don't mean entice, but will someone come in have a conversation where the skins out and around the game? And it turns out yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And we learned a lot. And so we kept sort of innovating, how the interaction would be with Jake from State Farm in that game. And who knew that the metaverse would be so quickly following where we'd have an opportunity. So it's not important that Jake is in the metaverse for selling policies today. What's important is that we are taking the learnings that we have of this little avatar in a fictional setting. And we know that it works and it's authentic, people will not rally against it. They'll support him there. And we put them in the metaverse to say, well, what can we do there? What learnings can we be ahead of other brands of our competition for sure, in our category there, no one in our category is there. And they may even say what the heck is I mean, why is State Farm wasting its time? And I say, because if this bet goes in the future, we're learning so much more than not playing there today. And we're creating a connection with current and potential future customers. And we can then once we're authentically in the metaverse, we can expand what we do in there and it won't be repelled. So to me, it's just these little incremental steps that have helped us take on like another bite you know, that expression eat the elephant one bite at a time. And we're doing that in this create, you know, generate future demand with young customers and trying to take little small bites and not get sick.

Ben Kaplan  31:54

And specifically what happened this so from NBA 2k What did Jake do in the metaverse appeared in different platforms and teared in different worlds as Jake so

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  32:05

on our 100th anniversary as a company last June, we announced Jake and State Farm in the metaverse not that we had plans to be in the metaverse we were in the metaverse with iHeart a really wonderful partner created I Heartland in two places in fortnight and on Roblox and we have State Farm Park in both places. And Jake is there not only Jake but our jingle the notes of like a good neighbor State Farm is there is in there are ovals our logo is in each place, meaning an interactive part of the gameplay. So I heart creates amazing concerts and they're on our stage and State Farm Park. And you know, similar to how someone would go to a concert at State Farm stadium or State Farm Arena in real life in Arizona and Atlanta. They can come but here you know the scale is much bigger, right? The the real life physical locations can only hold so many people. But in the metaverse a million people can be there at once. And we liked that how I heart was approaching the metaverse because it was the democratization for all there's no cost. There's no you can access through a PC. Now you have to have a PC as a cost. But it's not only through a very expensive headset or things like that. So the point is for those who want to be and are already playing in that space, we wanted to be there and we wanted to discontinue that test and learn and have authentic connections with a younger generation. 


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Ben Kaplan  33:46

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Ben Kaplan  34:28

this idea that you have about being there authentically means investing in the medium a bit right you can't just like go in there and be like yep here to sell insurance plans what you got, you know come by I got some car insurance for you. But you're talking about being there and authentic way to set up what might come later. And you don't know if for every tick tock or something. There could be another vine or something like that and it's gonna go away. But it's worth it to you to play there and kind of you want to be in the game wherever it's Laid, and you're willing to invest some time and you'll get some benefits now that are not amazingly huge benefits, but you'll invest in, you'll see, and it could pay off down the road, it seems like you're playing a few years ahead, right?

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  35:11

Because and look at that doesn't mean that we're not doing all the things we have to do to capture current demand today, with all ages of customers, we are, we're still in television and digital streaming, we still have good neighbor crews that go out to local festivals now, especially post pandemic, that are back up and running our agents 19,000 Strong across the United States or in communities literally everywhere, and engaging in real life. So we're still doing all of those things that matter as well. We're still among the first responders to disasters. You know, it's it's like the Red Cross and State Farm if a hurricane or a tornado hits, for example. And we're still rallying around our traditional forms of engagement with all ages, I guess, is what I'd say. And we're smart enough to know that we can't rest on our laurels as being the you know, we're the number one insurance provider today. And we can't just assume that all of the parents today who are State Farm, customers are automatically going to make sure their kids become customers, we have to earn it. And we have to we have to earn their trust, and they have to know who we are and understand us. And that means we've got to continue to invest, not just for right now, but to be smart about making sure that we're generating future demand. So

Ben Kaplan  36:41

wrap up, I'd love to get your insight on a preview of second half of 2023 and 2024. Where are you experimenting? Where are you pushing the envelope? Where are you doubled down? Is there something that is just like, you know, well, that's out of the box? Let's give it a shot. What can we expect just from State Farm, but also just where do you think there's opportunity to like push the envelope experiment and take this strategic risk taking approach that you've outlined, gaming

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  37:09

is a big one that's come in this summer. So we're not an endemic gaming brand. And I say that as somebody who at Intel and HP are both endemic gaming brands and did a lot around gaming for many, many years. But we've created our own gamer hood. And season two is coming was a big wild shot last year. And it did well. And we learned a lot and so gamer hood, season two with big names, and some big people. It's pretty exciting. And again, for a brand in the insurance category, but we're using it as an edutainment and part of the five week series is little insurable moment things catastrophes happen to our gamers, we put them we test them test their gaming skills, while a little little bit of chaos ensues around them. But it's just a light way for us to talk about our brand, but really to show the good neighborliness and and to have fun in a space that is important to us. So gaming is one that we're testing learning. And

Ben Kaplan  38:14

just for people who are not that familiar with gaming, or the gamer hood, you have a kind of gamers engaged in a challenge. It's on Twitch, I think, and why is gaming of all the things you could be and you could be you could be anything you want. Why gaming, do you think this is like, you know, you're in football, you're in basketball and gaming? What is it about it that resonates?

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  38:35

Passion points resonate with people and we think gaming is is an important passion point. Just like sports is a passion point for a segment of our target audience. So for this future audience and a younger generation, we think gaming is a passion point. And we think that we'd be missing an opportunity if we weren't there. Okay,

Ben Kaplan  38:56

got it. So it's a passing point, you did some test and learn. Now you're scaling version to one preview, coming gaming, what else are you kind of experimenting or thinking about?

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  39:06

So we talked a little bit about chat GPT I think that there's some interesting, I mean, I mean, it's really new, and I'm not saying anything, or announcing anything here, but our agencies and our partners are looking at you know, are there copyright efficiencies? Are there things we can do just as a marketing discipline, that AI can help us advance and not as a

Ben Kaplan  39:27

consumer facing campaign or anything but just in terms of like the nuts and bolts plumbing of marketing? can we leverage it to become more efficient? Is it me or is it actually a consumer facing campaign that would be related to this? Well,

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  39:40

as I sort of alluded to, before, we start small and we try a thing and then we keep going so for right now, it's what you said, but we're smart enough to be watching you know, Coke did an amazing thing with Dali in chat GBT. And and it's super interesting now all the copyright and all that kind of stuff, I think there's a lot more that we as an industry have to understand about it, but I am, it's on my radar. So I'll say that's, that's another thing we're looking at. And we're looking at, you know, we were big in music in the past and of course, the pandemic sort of change that. So, you know, there, that's another passion point, I'd say, no big announcements there. And you know, sports are still important to us, and all all sports. So we're, we're kind of seeing again, we're, you know, do whatever we're doing with our core, and then take, you know, bites of that elephant and continue to taking bites of the elephant, and learn as we go.

Ben Kaplan  40:42

Final question is, what do you think now for the next generation of, of marketer, given that we live in a world of change a world of test and learn a world of experimentation? For someone who wants your role or your trajectory? What would you recommend them? What should they do now, if they want to be relevance, we use the word again, 10 years from now, in marketing,

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  41:05

I thought what worked well, for me was not saying no to opportunities that presented themselves that seemed odd at the time being open, and no one you can say my boss sort of has control over my career to some degree, but I don't see it that way. You have control over your career, and what got me to catapult was taking chances when I was only consumer PC. And then I went over to the storage storage server software side of HP at the time, right? Meaning the techie data center stuff, I'd never done that before, it was really scary. But that then propelled a move to a different type of business and business model, I moved to Europe, I said yes to that live moved my family to Geneva, Switzerland. My point is, I never thought about the insurance category was open to the conversation. So I think part of it is there's no one set way and being open to things that seem scary, you can do it, try it, right. So I have confidence is kind of a thing. So that embracing changes is a big personal mantra for me. And also making sure to not filter to out too many ideas. It's not always know it might be just not yet, or not that big, let's try something smaller. And I think that having the mindset of trying and trying at the with reasonable risk, you'll start getting more and more confidence, and learn more yourself to then keep pushing boundaries. And I just think that it's really, really what helped me realize that it's just marketing, okay, we're going to be just fine. One thing

Ben Kaplan  42:42

that is implicit in what you said, it's implicit in test and learn explicit in experimentation. It's implicit in sort of this come from a place of Yes, or possibility or sort of be open minded, implicit. And all of that, I think, is this idea that there is great value from learning, whatever that happens, whether we're trying new marketing channel, whether you're sounds like taking your family to Europe, whether you're going into a new category, when you're coming from one place, that's not technical, and you're going to the technical division, whatever it is, if you recognize that learning has great value, and part of your role for the company, part of your role for yourself is to maximize your learning, then that those learnings if they have value, you take it with you. And it can propel you, your brand, your company and their brand to Yes,

Alyson Griffin - State Farm  43:36

and I think that not if you find yourself in a culture that isn't embracing the kind of thinking you have, it's okay to change that. You don't have to stay at a place because there are brands that are more risk taking than others. There are teams that are more open than others. And that's the other thing is you don't have to stay stuck somewhere that doesn't align with your thinking.

Ben Kaplan  44:03

According to State Farm's Alyson Griffin, the world of marketing as much like Jake from State Farm at 3am, always on always relevant and especially authentic. Even in khakis. Speaking of values, does your brand's inner culture vibe with its outer persona? Like Alyson points out? There's magic when the two sing in harmony. You won't have to convince your team to embrace a set of cultural values when your everyday actions embodies. So be adaptable. Iterate, don't slow down because the world won't either. The brightest billboards and catchy slogans might grab attention, but it's the authentic value driven actions that keep it for TOP CMO. I'm Ben Kaplan.


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