Farm Bureau Insurance Executives Share “Charlie” Campaign with UT Marketing Students

Farm Bureau Insurance Tennessee LogoThe real-world came to the Integrated Marketing Communications class at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Farm Bureau Insurance – Tennessee showed senior-level marketing students how classroom learning translates into the real world.

In 2006, Farm Bureau Insurance – Tennessee (FBITN) knew they had a marketing challenge. Awareness of the company was really low, particularly in urban markets, and research showed that a significant percentage of Tennesseans thought that you had to be in the farming industry to purchase the insurance.

“That was a real concern for us,” said Neal Townsend, chief marketing officer for FBITN. “We insure more than 650,000 family members, and Tennessee is the largest Farm Bureau group in the nation. Yet, no one knew about us. We needed to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.”

Joining Townsend in the classroom were Dan Batey, VP of corporate communications for FBITN, and Brooke Duncan, senior vice president of the Tombras Group. They shared its success with FBITN’s now-famous “Charlie Campaign.”

In 2007, FBITN joined forces with the Tombras Group to launch one of the company’s most successful campaigns. “Charlie has become a celebrity in his own right,” laughs Duncan.

Similar to what the students are challenged to do in the classroom, FBITN and Tombras conducted research to determine the best branding for the product and positioning for the campaign. “We knew our creative couldn’t overpower our message, but we needed to reinforce that any Tennessee resident —farmer or not—could purchase Farm Bureau insurance. We’ve stayed consistent with that message, and it’s been working for us. Awareness of the company is amazingly high, and business has grown every year. That’s happened despite a recessionary economy when many insurance companies have lost market share due to the extremely competitive environment.”

Charlie also has gone viral. “We have seen the character at weddings and even as a Halloween costume. There are even Charlie sightings on Facebook.” Batey is proud to add. “When you’ve become a cultural icon, you know you are doing something right.”

About University of Tennessee

Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN
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