Esurance: Brilliant Marketing Strategy or Lost Opportunity?

Debra Ellis President, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

Posted on March 3rd 2014

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.


Debra Ellis

President, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

Debra Ellis is a business consultant, author, and speaker. She specializes in showing companies how to improve customer acquisition and retention using integrated marketing and service strategies. Her latest marketing guide, 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing, is a practical resource for marketers seeking better results with minimal investment. Her engineering background provides statistical insight to finding actionable data that can be used to grow companies and reduce costs.

She is recognized as an expert in marketing from direct mail to social media, customer behavior, and strategic planning. Her expertise is often tapped by media sources including: The New York Times, CNN/’s Small Business Makeovers, Target Marketing, Multichannel Merchant, and MarketingProfs.

Her marketing guides include 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing, Social Media 4 Direct Marketers, and Marketing to the Customer Lifecycle.

Debra loves the art and science of multichannel marketing. She is a student and teacher of the methods that transform shoppers into buyers and buyers into lifelong customers. In 1995, she founded Wilson & Ellis Consulting, a boutique firm specializing in creating strategies that make channels and departments work together to optimize the customer experience. Since then, she has worked with over a hundred distinguished clients such as Costco, Edmund Scientifics, Jacuzzi, Ross-Simons Jewelry, and The Body Shop.

Prior to founding her firm, Debra was instrumental in the record growth of Ballard Designs, Inc. while serving as Chief Operating Officer. Today, she uses her experience and expertise to show executives how to successfully navigate marketing channels and integrate activities to profitably grow their business. Her practical approach maximizes the return on investment.

She can be reached via email at She blogs at

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Posted on March 3rd 2014 at 4:20PM

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.

Posted on March 3rd 2014 at 4:41PM

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.