HOLLYWOOD, FL: American Family Insurance has successfully differentiated its brand by focusing on customer dreams rather than adding to the "critter brigade" of mascots and characters which many of its rivals rely on.

Telisa Yancy, VP/Marketing at American Family Insurance, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2016 Brand Masters Conference.

More specifically, she suggested the insurance sector's emphasis on talking animals, or various other spokespeople embodying aspects of their brand or category, often helped commoditise the industry.

"These characters are there to tell you two things: Insurance isn't that important and you should really just worry about two things – how quickly can you get done doing this, and how cheap it can be," said Yancy. (For more, including further insights into the brand's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: American Family dreams to cut through insurance-marketing clutter.)

Instead of this utilitarian type of messaging, American Family Insurance decided to occupy more emotional territory and focus on how it can positively assist customers.

"When you really get down to it, insurance really isn't about characters and critters – although I applaud my competitors who use them," Yancy said. "It, really, is about giving you the capacity to live the life of your dreams.

"We've learned that insurance has a critical role in people's lives – that people believe that having insurance can help attain those dreams."

By addressing this theme, the organisation has found a way to stand out in the marketplace, and identified a unique lens through which to formulate its messaging.

"We believe that a part of our role is to help inspire, protect, and restore real dreams. That's who we think we are. That's who we've begun to be. And actually, as a challenger brand, that's how we found our truth," reported Yancy.

"What we've decided to do with our positioning as a brand – and going against the category – is to be a big fish in a pond of our own making."

Data sourced from Warc