Insurance is boring. And for consumers, auto insurance is a “negative” product: they only engage with the product when they’re writing a big check for their annual premium, or when they’re making a claim due to an accident.

The Hartford wanted to position its auto insurance products in a more optimistic light. After a year-long brand research project, the company was ready to introduce a new brand platform and a new direct-to-consumer policy. Because The Hartford would be competing with competitors spending many multiples of its marketing budget, the company wanted a complementary public relations program that would spike awareness in each market that it planned to enter during the year.

Because insurance is regulated on a state by state basis, the challenge was to create a program that would have an impact in local markets, provide a tangible benefit to drivers in those markets, and translate a conceptual brand positioning into something that consumers can understand.

In 2009, The Hartford had been offering various forms of insurance for almost 200 years, but the company’s reputation as the auto and homeowners insurance provider for AARP members had overshadowed its products for mass consumers. With its brand research and positioning development completed, the company wanted to re-build its reputation and awareness for personal lines insurance among a mass consumer audience, beginning with its auto insurance products.

While The Hartford traditionally sold insurance policies only through agents and brokers, the company was preparing to launch a direct-to-consumer product, enabling consumers to purchase auto policies online. Marketing and communications efforts would need to follow the state-by-state approvals process, with a focus on key metro areas in each state.

The company’s year-long brand research program (six phases of qualitative and quantitative research) provided a baseline for how The Hartford was perceived among a crowded field of insurance companies that had been out-spending the company in marketing and advertising:
• Awareness and preference for The Hartford was strong among AARP members, but fell by nearly half among general consumers.
• Among prospective customers, The Hartford had less than 10% awareness, compared with approximately 50% awareness for its competitive set (State Farm, Allstate, GEICO, et al).
• Four competitors accounted for 76% of the marketing spend in the insurance category, earning a corresponding share of voice.

These findings then led to a strategic process to identify a positioning for The Hartford that would be relevant to consumers, offer motivating qualities, and represent a point of difference from competitors. While other insurance companies tended to focus on the negative aspects of insurance – approaches that highlighted accidents and natural disasters – The Hartford would take a more optimistic view of the role of insurance.

The company settled on a brand positioning built around the concept of “your life, uninterrupted:” The Hartford understands that hardworking Americans want to protect what they’ve built. We know we are insuring more than just their cars. We are protecting the uninterrupted pursuit of their lives and dreams.” This positioning would need to inform all external communications, with a key motivator demonstrating that The Hartford is on my side and understands my needs.


Based on the results of the brand research and the new motivator statements for The Hartford’s auto insurance segment – “uninterrupted” and “understands my needs” – MM2 and The Hartford’s p.r. team focused first on factors that “interrupt” the average driver, as a starting point for the development of a public relations program in which The Hartford could demonstrate a solution.

The team commissioned new research – The Hartford’s Drivability Study – to identify the factors that contribute to a positive, “uninterrupted” daily commute, an experience shared by virtually every driver, whether commuting to work or running errands around town. The results then would inform an on-the-ground program – The Hartford’s Pothole Patrol – that could roll out on a market-by-market basis as insurance approvals were granted in each state.

A key finding of this national study indicated that Americans generally believe their cities are drivable, but the majority believes that improving physical road conditions would increase the drivability in their local areas. The survey also included oversamples of nine metro areas that were important to The Hartford’s direct-to-consumer auto insurance products in 2009 and 2010: Chicago suburbs Aurora and Evanston, Ill.; Dallas; Hartford, Conn.; Orlando; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Pittsburgh; Portland (Ore.); and San Antonio.

The on-the-ground program was positioned as a public-private partnership between The Hartford and local governments to assist with road repairs during a designated time period – contributing to a positive, uninterrupted driving experience for local drivers. A web site with city-specific pages was created to collect “pothole horror stories” and solicit photos of a city’s worst potholes, with local residents invited to vote on the worst pothole to be filled at the start of the initiative in each city.

Drivers aged 25 to 49 represent the primary target audience for The Hartford’s mass-consumer auto insurance products.

The objectives of the public relations program were to:
• Translate the “uninterrupted” and “on your side” brand platform to a tangible program with benefits to residents of targeted local markets.
• Build brand awareness for The Hartford as a strong competitor in the auto insurance segment for mass consumers, primarily through local market media coverage in 20 states targeted for roll-out of the direct-to-consumer product.
• Drive consumers to the Pothole Patrol web site to learn about the program, as well as find information about auto insurance and an online quote feature from The Hartford. The company’s internal goal was to achieve a minimum of 1,000 hits to its web site as a result of the public relations campaign.
• As part of an overall marketing campaign, contribute to an increase in The Hartford’s auto insurance business in states targeted for the roll-out of the direct-to-consumer product. In measurement of the campaign, The Hartford utilized the State of Arizona, and the metropolitan market of Phoenix specifically, as the benchmark for its marketing success.


The Hartford’s Drivability Study
• The initial study was conducted by GfK Roper during a three-week period in July and August 2009, using random-digit dial telephone interviews with registered U.S. drivers nationwide. An additional 300 interviews were conducted in each of The Hartford’s key metro areas. In March 2010, the study was expanded to additional markets to provide localized information for new markets that formed the focus of the program during this period.
• The research focused on the drivability of cities and towns, going beyond official statistics about traffic congestion and commute times, empowering respondents to define “drivability” for themselves and to tell stories of the road from a human perspective.
• The first section of the study ranked the drivability of areas based on the input of drivers, and the second section delved deeper into experiences and attitudes.
• A key finding that stood out from the results was that drivers believe fixing potholes or repaving streets is the most effective way to make their communities more drivable. In fact, bad roads were even less popular than heavy traffic: Three-fourths of American drivers would prefer to sit in stop-and-go traffic on a well-paved road rather than have a road full of potholes to themselves.

The Hartford Pothole Patrol
• After reviewing the results of the study at the end of the summer, the team developed the concept for the Pothole Patrol program, with implementation in the initial group of markets targeted for fall 2009.
• The team approached city governments in key metro areas with a proposal to fund the cost of their pothole repair trucks, and brand the trucks with The Hartford signage. Each city had a different process and different department to work through, and each requested a customized approach ranging from funding for a certain number of trucks to funding for a certain number of days.
• A web site was developed as a platform for the program – – with city-specific pages to “showcase” offending potholes, collect stories from drivers, and solicit interaction from local residents through votes for the worst potholes. The site also featured driving advice and pothole “trivia” from The Hartford, all aligned with the “uninterrupted” messaging, and a real-time poll that allowed consumers to rate their pothole-avoidance techniques.
• The program was launched in October 2009 in the Chicago area (two suburbs), with Hartford, Phoenix and Tucson following. In 2010, The Hartford returned to Tucson, while also adding Dallas, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Portland (Ore.), and San Antonio.
• In each market, a kick-off event was scheduled with a local city official at a high-profile location, with media in attendance.
• A comprehensive program of phased media outreach supported the program, including distribution of the local drivability study results in each city; alerts to the media and blogs prior to any city council votes to approve the Pothole Patrol program; a news release inviting residents to contribute information to the Pothole Patrol web site; driving tips and advice; media alert with specific details about each kick-off event; and aggressive telephone follow-up throughout the campaign.


The Hartford’s campaign was successful in meeting the company’s objectives:

Concept: The concept for the campaign successfully translated the “uninterrupted” and “on your side” brand platform to a tangible program with benefits to residents of targeted local markets.

Awareness: Based on available readership/viewership numbers, The Hartford’s messages received more than 22 million exposures through more than 350 media placements. Media coverage was concentrated largely within the targeted local markets in the states where The Hartford was rolling out its direct-to-consumer auto product.
o Media coverage was secured in the major daily newspapers in 9 out of 10 markets where the Pothole Patrol was implemented – including the major daily in Tucson for both events in that city (2009 and 2010).
o For seven of 10 Pothole Patrol events (Hartford, Tucson – two events, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Antonio), broadcast coverage was secured on all four major network affiliates (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX). In five out of 10 Pothole Patrol markets (Dallas, Kissimmee, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Antonio), broadcast coverage also was secured on the regional cable network news stations.
o Media coverage of The Hartford Drivability Survey included USA Today’s “Snapshots” section twice (once in November 2009 and again in January 2010); nationally syndicated columnist John MacIntyre’s “Figuratively Speaking” column, resulting in coverage in numerous daily newspapers across the country; daily newspapers such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Portland Oregonian; and the business journals in Phoenix, Tucson, Memphis, Nashville, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas.

Web site visits: As a result of the public relations campaign, the web site received more than 2,500 visits, surpassing the established goal. A geographic analysis indicated that the targeted states represented the bulk of the registered hits.

Business contribution: The first phase of the campaign included establishing a “test market” for the public relations program, which was Arizona. As part of the overall marketing campaign, the program contributed to a 300+% increase in new auto insurance business in Arizona in 2009 over 2008 results. (Business results for specific markets in which the 2010 program was focused are not currently available.)