What’s the Name of the GEICO Gecko?
Even advertisers understand that we live in a pet crazy society. Ever noticed how many animals are used in brand marketing? That’s because we love animals and we can relate to them… even reptiles. Just take a look at the GEICO Gecko. In 2005, he was voted America’s top advertising icon.
From Charming Reptile to Advertising Icon
Based on the day gecko (Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis), the GEICO Gecko is thought to be a mash up of several different types of squamate reptiles. Geckos are small and live in warm climates. There are many varieties of geckos and all, except those species in the Eublepharidae family, lack eyelids so they cannot blink. To keep their corneas clean, they lick them. Here’s another interesting fact: As a means of self-defense, geckos can lose their tails.
So, why is a lizard hawking car insurance, and who would have figured he’d become such a beloved character? All he does is shrug his shoulders, lick his eyeballs, and bear his soul in a cute Cockney accent and we’re hooked.
Real-life geckos are just as fascinating. They have suede-like skin and come in 800 species of various sizes and glorious colors. They also make a large variety of pleasant chirping noises, but don’t expect them to talk to you about car insurance. That’s a creation of the Martin Agency, an advertising agency headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.
Back in 1999, a writer’s strike at the Screen Actors Guild meant that live actors could not be used in advertising. At the time, GEICO was preparing to roll out a new ad campaign. Since they couldn’t use live actors, the idea of an animated lizard was born. The GEICO Gecko came from a brainstorming session where the team asked, “What is GEICO?” The real answer is that the name is an acronym for “Government Employees Insurance Co.” – but ”GEICO” has often been mispronounced as “gecko.” The gecko seemed like the perfect choice for a company spokesperson, and as a result, we were introduced to an animated gecko holding a press conference, where he explained the difference between GEICO and gecko to an audience.
How Humor (and a Cute Gecko) Changed the Face of Insurance Advertising
When the GEICO Gecko debuted in 1999, the character was voiced by Kelsey Grammer, famously known for his roles on Cheers and Frasier. Since then, a variety of performers have voiced the role of the Gecko, including British actor Jake Wood.
The popularity of the GEICO Gecko is undeniable. He’s touched our lives in a wide variety of ways and he’s even written a book entitled “You’re Only Human,” which features his colorful wisdom and memorable sayings. This enterprising gecko loves to tell people how GEICO can help them save money on car insurance, and he does it in a very approachable way.
The GEICO Gecko single-handedly changed the face of insurance marketing. Insurance advertising can be tricky, because no one really wants to buy insurance, and it has no tangible benefit until, at some point in the unforeseen future, you need it. Most people see insurance as a necessary evil, and because of that, it has been historically difficult to market. Before the GEICO Gecko debuted in 1999, most insurance companies used a very matter-of-fact approach in their advertising by listing facts and figures, along with a fearful warning about life’s dangers. But with the GEICO Gecko, humor was introduced as a new way to sell insurance. Over the years, more and more humorous insurance campaigns became a reality, including the Aflac Duck and Flo from Progressive Insurance.
Does the Geico Gecko Have a Name?
Since 2005, the world’s most famous reptile has replaced the Taco Bell Chihuahua in popularity. Remember the commercial that pitted the Chihuahua against the Gecko in a spokesanimal audition?
The GEICO Gecko’s real name is Martin, named after the advertising agency that created him. This character is so beloved that GEICO is working hard to protect his good name. They are known to sue competitors who appropriate their “famous and distinctive talking gecko,” especially those that show him behaving in a bumbling manner.
Americans Prefer Spokesanimals
As Americans, we love our advertising animals! In a national survey, the most popular animals used in advertising were cat, turtle, elephant, eagle, salmon, trout, butterfly, robin, swan, horse, and dog. However, the commercial doesn’t have to feature the most popular animals to tickle our fancy. They just need to be self-aware. “It just seems that self-awareness helps lower people’s barriers to your message,” says Steve Bassett at the Martin Agency. Today’s characters need to have a story and a conflict in order to connect with us. Take another beloved brand for example, the Aflac Duck.
That poor Aflac Duck has been trying to get everyone to listen to him since he first appeared on TV in 2000. We completely sympathize with the feathered cutie, because we all know what it’s like to have people ignore us. The Duck still can’t seem to get people to listen to him about insurance in his commercials, but he has definitely won an audience. In 2001, he was exported to Japan and was embraced by audiences there. In 2004, he was even named America’s Favorite Advertising Icon. For now though, the GEICO Gecko reigns supreme.