Progressive Insurance’s cheery spokescharacter, Flo, is resonating strongly with consumers, improving the company’s standing in Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Index.

For the 2010 survey, Progressive jumped into the No. 2 spot behind Allstate, up from the fifth position in 2009. According to Brand Keys founder and president Robert Passikoff, that jump is attributable to one thing: Flo.

“What folks are looking for is some level of connection that can be established with the brand,” Passikoff tells Marketing Daily . “That’s the movement that’s happened with Progressive. It’s not just that they do a lot of advertising; they all do a lot of advertising.”

Progressive’s ability to connect with consumers is particularly impressive—and necessary—in a category like insurance, where the products are often mundane and indistinguishable from one company to the next, Passikoff says. “We generally say the decision process for most categories is 70/30 emotional/rational, and this is a great example of that,” he says. “The manner in which they’ve developed the character and the offerings—it seems to be very organic, emotional and fluid. It’s how people get engaged.”

Progressive’s jump on the Customer Loyalty Index comes at the expense of companies such as State Farm, GEICO and Nationwide, which each moved down one spot (to third, fourth and fifth, respectively) in 2010 after Progressive’s jump from fifth in 2009. For these companies, it may be time to take a long look at their communications strategies, Passikoff says.

“The ones who are not seeing high levels of customer prospect engagement, it’s not a matter of looking to re-engineer their offers,  but looking at how they’re communicating their offers,” he says.  “From a creative perspective, you’ve got a lot of companies doing the same kind of thing, and they’re not getting the same kind of success.”

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