Spotlight conversation: Not ducking businesses

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Al Johnson
Al Johnson

Q: What led you to Aflac? How have you seen it evolve since your arrival?

A: I worked on the agency side of advertising for eight years, in small to midsize shops, working on regional and national accounts. I was not looking for a job when I heard from Aflac. I got a call from a headhunter who said, “There's this up-and-coming company that has launched a new campaign that's got some buzz around it.” It was looking for someone with agency expe­rience help develop its advertising and marketing efforts, and it was a match made in heaven for me. The campaign involved a national icon — the Aflac duck. We've been able to expand into other areas — not just TV, but b-to-b and Hispanic, and have gotten involved in different products, services and spon­sorships, such as the Aflac All-American baseball game.

Q: Aflac reported an increase in rev­enues for the second quarter. To what do you attribute that success?

A: We have a great distribution system in the sales force, with 70,000 agents, or associates, talking about Aflac or being brand stewards for us. That helps tre­mendously. The other thing is that our products and services are a good value. Some products can be deducted pre-tax, so that's savings for the business owner as well as the employee.

Q: You mentioned the sales force, which Aflac has been building. Why are these employees so important?

A: They are our front line — calling on potential accounts, servicing current accounts, and [serving as] brand stew­ards. Without them there would be no Aflac. We make sure they know that on a day-to-day basis.

Q: The company has ramped up its b-to-b marketing efforts. Can you elaborate on those activities?

A: We have always sold through the jobsite, so communicating to business decision makers is not new for us. What is new is our b-to-b campaign this year. We conducted research in 2007 and developed creative based on that to communicate certain messaging points. The idea was to entice the business decision maker to take a harder look at who we are as a brand. We've done print b-to-b ads in the past, but this campaign is multiplatform with TV, print, national radio, banner ads and search engine marketing. We're buy­ing keywords and everything to drive people to aflacforbusiness.com and get them to be more receptive. B-to-b marketing is more challenging than con­sumer marketing. How do you reach someone that is sitting in their office? And, how do you get them to focus on insurance? Part of our strategy is to utilize our biggest brand asset — the duck. He's exciting, he's funny, people can identify with him, and we're using that to help us get their attention.

Q: What's next for the duck?

A: He'll continue to be part of our cam­paigns. We're always exploring the next idea, so when that comes up he's going to be a part of it.

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