Aflac has a challenge most companies can only dream of having.

Ten years after the launch of the Aflac duck — surely one of the most succesful brand marketing campaigns ever devised —  the supplemental insurance provider from Columbus, Georgia has achieved an astonishing 93% brand recognition.  One survey has the duck as America’s second-favorite advertising icon (the M&M talking candies were first,) ahead of such iconic images as the Pillsbury doughboy and Tony the Tiger — brands which consumers see on the shelves and in their cupboards every day.

So, mission accomplished, right?  Not exactly.

The Aflac team knows that brand recognition doesn’t equate to understanding what the company does.  While most people can now say (cue my best duck-voice here) “AF-LAAC,” not enough can also describe with any specificity the products the company provides, and why those products are so important.  

So the company has begun pivoting their marketing towards creating awareness around the company’s overall value proposition and individual product offerings.  The new campaign centers around the tag “You Don’t Know Quack,” and contains more than 40 integrated marketing and communications elements, including TV, print, social media, PR, sports sponsorships and much more. 

Smartly, the company isn’t doing away with the duck, but instead is using it as a means to teach people more about supplemental  insurance (see the centerpiece ad here.)  The campaign is also aggressively using facts to help establish the economic context and underlying need for Aflac’s policies.

Aflac has described this effort as driving consideration – so that when someone decides to purchase supplemental insurance, Aflac is at top of mind.  But this really is also a clear example of a company building a constituency.  The type of insurance Aflac offers fills an important gap in the firmament – enabling those who’ve been sick or hurt, and who are temporarily unable to work, to continue paying their day-to-day bills, such as groceries, rent, etc.  Aflac’s core market are employees of small businesses, whose major medical insurance may fall short in many areas, and for whom the kind of supplemental programs Aflac offers can mean all the difference in their family’s finanancial stability, should something tragic occur.  Aflac wants to be known for meeting a critical need in people’s lives.  

I spent two days with members of the Aflac marketing and communications team, and believe that they’ll take this well-known brand to the next level.  They have a remarkable depth of passion that’s  joined by a clear strategic focus (anyone who can use the phrase “spokesduck” without a trace of irony in their voice earns major kudos by my book.)  It will be interesting to measure their success as they add more substance to the Aflac brand and build on so much good work that has gone before them.

And I brought two stuffed toy Aflac ducks home to my girls — they may never have forgiven me if I hadn’t.