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Esurance: Brilliant Marketing Strategy or Lost Opportunity?

Cost Risk & Effort

Successful marketing campaigns engage people on the front end and deliver results on the backend. It is a balance of creating buzz and generating revenue that is very hard to achieve. The content that generates the most shares is rarely the catalyst for acquiring customers or leads. Sometimes it seems that the strategy is share and prayer.

Creating a message that goes viral without a plan for long-term benefits is a lost opportunity. Esurance stole the show on Super Bowl Sunday with their discounted ad and giveaway. The concept was simple, easy-to-understand, and created buzz, but was it effective? The company saved $1.5 million by buying the first ad after the Super Bowl. The savings was passed on to one lucky winner. Entry into the sweepstakes was gained by tweeting #EsuranceSave30 and following Esurance on Twitter.

If the goal was to acquire Twitter followers, the campaign was incredibly successful. Esurance had 10,019 followers on the Saturday preceding the Super Bowl. The count peaked on the following Wednesday at 271,060 for a net gain of 261,041. Acquisition cost was $5.75 without including the cost for the ad’s airtime. When that expense is added, cost goes up to $19.15 per Twitter follower.

An acquisition cost of approximately $20 is not unusual in the direct marketing industry. There is one key difference. Acquisition costs in direct marketing are based on acquiring customers, not followers with a low entry threshold and short attention span. Esurance invested heavily in creating an event unlikely to deliver a positive ROI.

The concept was brilliant. Esurance is a discount based insurance company. The ad and the giveaway reinforced the company’s marketing message saving money for customers. The way the sweepstakes was announced guaranteed instant buzz. People were definitely engaged. The first part of a successful marketing campaign was well done. People followed and engaged with the company for a short period.

Delivering results wasn’t handled nearly as well. The engagement was fleeting. Followers started leaving as soon as the sweepstakes was over.


Brand awareness may help build companies but sales are required to make them strong. Sweepstakes with large giveaways can command higher thresholds without significantly affecting the engagement. The addition of an entry form requiring contact information would have provided an opportunity for the company to connect with individuals on a one-to-one basis.

Three emails would follow the entry:

Confirmation email: The message would include a thank you for entering, a request to share on social media networks, and information about the services offered by Esurance.

Reminder email: The message would include a reminder to watch Jimmy Kimmel to see the winner announced and more information about services offered.

Consolation email: This is the “everyone is a winner” when they save on insurance email. It features the best Esurance has to offer.

There is never a guarantee on the results side of a marketing campaign but the odds are significantly improved when the message includes opportunities to buy. The Esurance Super Bowl promotion minimized those opportunities.

Join The Conversation

  • DebraEllis's picture
    Mar 3 Posted 1 year ago DebraEllis

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and article. The questions you ask in your comment should be asked by every marketer before releasing their latest brainstorm on the world. I agree with the points you make in your article. They are on target.


  • msobol's picture
    Mar 3 Posted 1 year ago msobol

    As one of the many people who tweeted for a chance at the Esurance sweepstakes, I immediately looked at my wife and said, "I wonder what, if anything, they'll do next." And I hadn't given it a thought since.

    Granted, asking new prospects to send a tweet is about the lowest bar of enagement possible, which helps dramatically grow the top of your sales funnel. But is there a funnel here? To your point, it's not clear that Esurance built one at all.

    So that's the real question: Whatever your marketing strategy, what's the sales funnel look like? Follow up emails, an enewsletter, additional important updates pushed through social, etc?

    On a related note, I recently wrote about what a bad idea viral content can be, especially when it doesn't help you get closer to your target audience. Sure, Esurance has a mighty big target audience, but that's no reason to hope poorly engaged Twitter followers somehow start buying.

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