When you think of Progressive, you likely think of Flo, the perky Superstore cashier who has appeared in nearly 100 ads for the insurance company in the last few years. But you might not know so much about the company itself and what it's all about, and that's something the brand wants to address, which is why it's launching a new campaign today dubbed "The Thread." "What we’re trying to do with this campaign is pull back the veil and say, ‘Here is who we really are and what really makes us Progressive,’" says Progressive Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Charney.
Before we go any further, it should be noted that Flo, who is played by actress/comedian Stephanie Courtney, will continue to work the register at the Superstore and cheerfully inform customers all about the benefits of buying insurance from Progressive. The Thread campaign isn’t meant to replace the Superstore-themed ads featuring Flo but to serve as a complement. "It’s all part of a layering strategy," Charney explains.
Created by Arnold Worldwide, The Thread campaign debuts on September 23 with commercials—aka "Apron Anthems"—that were shot by the directing collective Everynone. Both the 30-second version for television titled "Everything" and the 60-second "Most Progressive Thing," which can be seen online at The Thread hub and on YouTube, follow real people who work in everything from 3-D printing to pickling to metalworking as they don aprons in the morning, get down to business, then hang up their aprons when their work is done.
What do aprons have to do with car insurance, the launch spot asks on your behalf? Well, for starters, Flo always wears one, so there is a link there, but that connection isn’t overtly made—we just see a Progressive apron being hung up at the conclusion of each spot. Rather, the focus of the ads is depicting the apron as a symbol of hard work, pride in a job well done and progress, traits that are associated not only with the people who appear in the Apron Anthems but also Progressive.
It's important to promote shared values in brand campaigns, especially when trying to connect with millennials, according to Charney, who cites a Harvard Business Review study that found millennials who had a relationship with a brand said shared values were the primary reason. The Thread campaign isn’t aimed solely at millennials, Charney stresses, but the group is a target that Progressive would like to reach.
Another component of The Thread campaign also rolling out on September 23 is Apron Projects, a series of short video profiles celebrating everyday people doing progressive things. While one of the innovators featured uses electroluminescent paint to make motorcycles visible at night, another subject has found a way to farm oysters while simultaneously saving their habitat.
There are currently six Apron Projects videos available for viewing, but that number will grow. "We’ll keep producing them as we come across more stories," Charney says. "There is no limit to them. We want to highlight these videos in a major way."
There will also be more elements of The Thread campaign to come, but Charney says Progressive isn’t out to bombard people with content—The Thread is envisioned as a long-term effort. "I’ve been here for three years, almost three years, and we have been on a journey on this. It’s not something that happened overnight," Charney says of the creation of the campaign. "We’ve been talking to our customers, talking to other consumers, focus groups, looking at all sorts of survey data to make this thing something that will build over time and last a long time."