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Aflac Tells Its Duck to Tone Down the Quack

It's not easy managing a pop culture icon, especially one you have created. Aflac, the supplemental workplace insurer, soared from 12 percent to 90 percent...
December 7, 2004

It's not easy managing a pop culture icon, especially one you have created. Aflac, the supplemental workplace insurer, soared from 12 percent to 90 percent brand awareness in the four years since it began running commercials in which a duck quacks the company's name.

Now, Aflac is launching a new $50 million ad campaign that still features the duck, but contains more hard-sell of the company's products.  Some branding experts say the strategy risks offending consumers, who are used to funny commercials centered on the quacking bird and may think that hearing more about insurance spoils the fun. It's not a new problem. Back in the 1970's, a popular commercial for Alka Seltzer featured a rotund man complaining about indigestion from eating too many spicy meatballs. Research found that the immensely popular spot actually increased sales of meatballs, not Alka Seltzer. The Alka Seltzer folks didn't think that was funny. They cancelled the commercial.

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