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403: Leveraging “Jake from State Farm” and Prioritizing Contextual Relevancy with Alyson Griffin, Head of Marketing at State Farm

Alyson Griffin is back! She is a musician, mother, and marketing leader born and raised in Silicon Valley with over 25 years of experience leading marketing, branding, and thought leadership teams. Alyson originally planned on being a pharmacist, but she eventually realized it wasn’t the right fit for her. As soon as she walked into her first advertising class, the rest was history. She eventually got her degree in communications and started at a PR agency right after graduation. She went client side with HP in 2000, where she worked her way up to VP of Marketing, then served as VP of Global Marketing at Intel Corporation until 2019. She left to do consulting when the pandemic hit, but it wasn’t long before Alyson got a perfectly timed call from State Farm. Alyson joined the team as Head of Marketing in 2021, where she has been tasked with revolutionizing the 100-year-old brand.

In this episode, Alan and Alyson discuss her non-traditional path from pharmacy school to technology to insurance, and of course, we talk about Jake! State Farm has seven iconic brand assets, the most famous and well-cultivated being Jake from State Farm. Alyson tells us the story behind the iconic Jake character, the strategy behind it now, and how he is helping the brand resonate with Gen Z. After realizing that they had the older audience well secured, State Farm began to focus on expanding to the younger generation and investing in future demand generation. They have several diverse partnerships and spokespeople, from Disney to NBA 2K to Jimmy Fallon, that help the brand connect with the public and, specifically, young people. Like most insurance companies, State Farm leverages humor in these marketing efforts, but what sets them apart is maintaining contextual relevance and strategically utilizing their assets, like Patrick Mahomes, to reach the audience he is most relevant with, people watching Monday Night Football. Alyson also tells us why sports play such a large role in the marketing strategy and how her team is working with large media partners to cobrand and integrate naturally into entertainment content.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The story behind Jake from State Farm, why he is so unique, and how they are leveraging the asset to reach Gen Z
  • How they are creating future demand through strategic partnerships and doubling down with gamers
  • Why State Farm prioritized maintaining a large presence in sports

Key Highlights:

  • [02:30] Intergenerational music lovers
  • [04:48] From musician to future pharmacist to marketer
  • [06:40] From Intel to State Farm
  • [08:45] Gaining confidence through change
  • [10:20] Why insurance relies on marketing so much
  • [11:30] Jake was real!?  
  • [15:45] Jake has entered the metaverse.
  • [17:15] Jake is playing NBA 2K.
  • [23:45] Jake has entered the Swiftverse.
  • [24:30] Diverse, yet values-aligned, partnerships
  • [29:05] How State Farm thinks about marketing overall
  • [32:45] Why sports are a strategic marketing move
  • [34:55] Only Murders in the (State Farm insured) Building
  • [37:55] What shaped her risk tolerance, vision, and passion?
  • [39:15] “Have confidence and trust your gut.”
  • [39:55] Leveraging AI while staying true to the brand and jumping on trends
  • [42:30] Positive PR stunts
  • [42:25] Acting Swiftly

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