Laura Petrolino

Creative Marketing Case Study: Allstate Mayhem Campaign

By: Laura Petrolino | January 25, 2016 | 

Creative Marketing Case Study: Allstate Mayhem CampaignBy Laura Petrolino

It’s a trap we all have fallen into. Give us a fun B2C client, or innovative B2B campaign and we are all a flutter with ideas, different angles, counter perspectives, ways to take the message and make it click with our target audience.

We come up with a flurry of creative marketing ideas and aren’t afraid to think outside the box and flip things inside out.

And then we come upon a client who has a difficult message they have to get across, a not so exciting product or service, or maybe deals with one of those topics that often causes people to run in the opposite direction (death, accident, injury, misfortune, financial struggles….things in life we don’t want to deal with, but must), and we shut down.

All the sudden our creative marketing ideas become…well, not creative, and we get trapped only seeing things from a very traditional perspective.

I love following campaigns that look the dull or uncomfortable right in the eye and say “come at me bro…”

Which I imagine is exactly what a campaign personified would say, all while pounding his fist on his chest (why my personification of marketing campaigns resembles a cast member of Jersey Shore is probably a topic best left unaddressed).

In the past we’ve talked about reverse message strategy, and how to use it to approach difficult topics from a new angle. We’ve also looked at campaigns such as Bob the House, or the City of Portland, that bring a new voice and sparkle to often dull topics.

Today I’m going to take at Allstate and their number one man: Mayhem.

Fear-mongering or……?

Many of you might be familiar with Mayhem, the fictional spokesperson for Allstate, who has served as the brand’s case study of the need for insurance since 2010.

While this creative marketing campaign initially faced some flack due to “fear-mongering” tactics, the light-hearted voice and nature of Mayhem cushions that into much more of a relatable, “oh crap, things happen, might as well be prepared” feeling.

In fact, in many ways, Mayhem allows the brand to discuss the often scary topics we tend to want to turn away from—things the proper insurance coverage can support you through—by shifting the tone of the discussion.

Mayhem’s relatability and endless quotables caught on quickly after his debut and the character took on a life of his own beyond the brand. After the first two fiscal quarters of the Mayhem campaign, Allstate saw nearly a five percent increase in sales, taking in $7.9 billion .

The campaign is fulling integrated, it’s on all of the social channels, on the Allstate website and promotional materials, in commercials, and discussed in media outreach.

Mayhem is also very interactive.

Because most of the commercial spots plays during major events (think Superbowl, National Championship Game, College Football Playoff games) the Mayhem character takes advantage of a captivated audience and tweets people during events (both for engagement and to reinforce the the campaign theme “Mayhem is everywhere”).

Mayhem Stays on Top of the Trends

Allstate does an excellent job in keeping Mayhem involved in top trending news and themes.

During the 2014 Allstate sponsored Sugar Bowl they leveraged Mayhem to launch Project Share Aware, a creative marketing campaign aimed to increase awareness the dangers of sharing one’s location on social media.

The well-designed campaign showed Mayhem breaking into the home of a couple who was attending the Sugar Bowl (the couple was given an all-expense paid trip to the game) and place more than 300 of their household items on sale.

Like really…on sale. Well, not the couples actual items, but representations of them. The sale was housed on a special campaign website which went live during the game for anyone to buy.

The brand used their social accounts (primarily Twitter and Facebook), along with the hashtag #MayhemSale, to engage with people during the game and to promote each individual sale item.

Crowdsourcing the Mayhem Way

In 2013, the brand began to crowdsource ads and ask fans to vote for which commercials they wanted to see make the airwaves. This year they once again jumped upon a major trend—DIY—and created an integrated creative marketing campaign which pulled in actual DIY disasters and asked viewers to vote on their favorite to become a feature ad.

The intent of the Mayhem DIY campaign is to remind consumers of the importance of homeowner protection, especially if they have a case of the “do it yourself-er,” a growing (and often disaster-filled trend).

Allstate released ads which highlighted the different featured DIYer stories, as well as two ads that explain the campaign itself.

The ads were first broadcast during the 2015 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (which is where I first saw them and went down the Mayhem rabbit hole—resulting in this post), The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, and the Capital One Orange Bowl.

The public was able to vote on or on Twitter for which DIY story they wanted to see in full-length during the National Championship Game. All fans who participated were also entered into a sweepstakes to win tools and a grand prize of $25,000 to Lowe’s.

Creative Marketing: What Mayhem Means for You

What can you take away from our friend Mayhem for your creative marketing efforts (without the huge budget of Allstate):

  • Think outside the box when it comes to discussing difficult topics. These topics require a unique twist and a way to view the message from a different angle—one that doesn’t immediately trigger the “run or gag” reflex from consumers.
  • Integration is key. When you are trying to change the perspective of an issue, you can’t just use one channel to do so. The traditional angle will dominate everywhere else for the consumer and dilute any challenge you put up to that messaging. Instead you must be everywhere, and the only way to do that is through integration of all four media types.
  • Don’t be afraid to have personality. Mayhem works because he has a clear and engaging personality. He isn’t just some talking head discussing disaster (who would pay attention to that?). He’s relatable and clever. He’s everyone’s favorite disaster (that sounds like the chorus of a soon-to-be hit country song).
  • Engage, engage, engage. Difficult topics require us to be very hands-on and present. They need to be brought down to the conversational level to be more digestible. Social and the strategic use of content gives us an amazing ability to do this. Use it.
  • Get your community involved. A special type of engagement—make the community part of the effort. User-generated content, crowdsourcing, live panels, and discussions—whatever fits your particular audience and effort.

What else would you add to this list?

photo credit: mayhem-is-coming-allstate via photopin (license)

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • I’ll be the first to admit I cannot stand Mayhem, but you can’t really deny a five percent increase in sales. Nor can you deny the brilliant way they use PESO. Perhaps we’ll just set my feelings aside as my not being their target audience.

    • Hahaha! No, I’m their target audience (my little disaster-prone self)!

      I actually had no idea how well they used the PESO model until I started to dig in. The level of detail and creativity is really impressive.

      I wish I could have found the most recent growth numbers numbers. I’ll keep looking and see if I can update.

    • Whaaaat? I love Mayhem.

  • I don’t know what rock I have been under (except, I guess, the Netflix-free rock). This rings zero bells with me! But it’s still a great analysis, Laura!

    • LOL! Do you not watch football?

      • My spouse watches enough for both of us, so no – not really.

    • The advantage of Netflix is no commercials…and you can watch as many shows as you want. You don’t have to wait until Monday nights at 8:00 to watch your show.

      Also, happy Monday!

      • You’ve got a point w/the no commercials part.

        And thx for that day of the week clarification! Since my kid is home from high school due to a threat of gun violence which led the school to excuse absences, it does not feel like Monday at all. UGH.

        • Yikes! Now, gun violence would be a tough subject to make a PSA campaign for without making people run from it.

        • Travis Peterson

          In Tally? Geez I thought all the crazy folks in town were congregated around the Capital building…

          • Is this about the gun threat? If so, then yes. Two local high schools originally then a third. Eventually it was discovered that similarly named schools (like Lincoln) around the nation received similar threats. It was all enough to derail a day of education and (coincidentally) lead me to discover that my student’s school has blocked me from their twitter account. Not that I’m bitter or anything LOL.

          • I’d be bitter. Do you want me to start tweeting at them for you? I will!

          • WELL, hang tight for a bit. There’s another secret weapon being deployed.
            And by weapon, I do not mean something that will cancel school unnecessarily. Not that I’m bitter about THAT either LOL.

      • Jeff McCloud

        I’m totally in the same boat as Paula. I watch more Netflix than actual broadcast TV and am not a football fan. So I’ve not been exposed to Mayhem. But I love the points Laura makes.

        • Haha! Thanks Jeff. And this actually raises an interesting question about why Allstate chose to target that way…I’d be interested at the research and thinking behind that.

  • I think Mayhem copied Brian from The Shephard Group, who was a creation by the agency I used to be partner at.

    Brian is much more likeable than Mayhem. 🙂

    • Aren’t 90 percent of the great campaigns out there just an imitation of something you were involved in? I thought that was just implied?

      • I think it’s more or less understood. Oh, wait – you were bring facetious, weren’t you?

        • Of course not. Around here we all wear our WWDD (what would Danny do) bracelets daily. In fact Corina has one version for each language she speaks (so about 10)

          • See, now you’re just taking the piss. Stop mocking me!!

            (Does Corina really have 10? Cool!) 🙂

  • Did you know… the actor who plays in those commercials actually died in the ER and was brought back to life by the ER doctors? That’s how he got the role… not sure who at Allstate found out about this but thought it was a pretty cool piece of trivia…

    • Now that’s a cool story! Thanks, Kristen. 🙂

      • Ohhh….that’s absolutely fascinating. They should publicize that more, it makes the story that much better.

  • howiegoldfarb

    They auditioned originally for a Chief Alien then some dufus screenwriter named Franz had a friend who was such a mess the idea of Mayhem came up.

    • Well thank goodness, that leave the Chief Alien free for a better gig!

  • Travis Peterson

    The Mayhem campaign is awesome. I’m a huge fan of the paid campaign, which I’ve also seen shared on social media. Great example of a PESO campaign.

  • The Mayhem campaign is magnificent. Online networking is not just at the center of Allstate’s Mayhem imaginative, yet it’s an essential part of the battle’s methodology. Pandemonium, who began tweeting a year ago, will push the battle on his social profiles, offering first looks of the things available to be purchased on the e-business site.

  • I completely LOVED the use of humor and sassy personality in this campaign – thought it was a brilliant move in a typically boring industry that is too conservative. Plus, it fit the brand instead of being “creative for the sake of being creative” in a way that doesn’t deliver results or resonate with its audience.

    I wish more brands had the cajones to go with strong creative, instead of lukewarm, boring “me-too” ideas. Kudos to them!

    Great article, too, Laura!!

  • think Mayhem replicated Brian from The Shephard Group, who was a creation by the office I used to be accomplice at.