Brian Stout is a global strategy director at Leo Burnett in Chicago. In addition to his regular role on the global Samsung account, Brian plays a key role in developing strategy for LGBT-targeted work for clients across the agency, most notably for Allstate. The Égalitarian had a chance to catch up with Brian and find out more about Allstate's most recent award-winning LGBT campaign called “Equality Is”.
THE ÉGALITARIAN: Equality Is has been racking up industry awards left right and center. How did this campaign come about? BRIAN: We worked with Allstate to conduct a pretty robust quantitative study, which revealed that the insurance category was one of the least trusted among the LGBT community. Allstate has a long heritage of doing the right thing, so naturally they wanted to take a stand and help change this perception. With a limited budget, we focused on the California market because it has high concentrations of LGBT people, but also because there was a unique tension LGBT Californians were experiencing, which led to the insight for the campaign: Since their existing right to marry was outlawed at the ballot box, LGBT Californians felt like their voice had been taken away. We wanted to make Allstate the brand to help give them back their voice. That led to the idea for the Equality Is campaign (allstate.com/equalityis).
THE ÉGALITARIAN: We often hear from clients that they are nervous that LGBT-targeted communications will lead to consumer backlash. Was that a barrier for Allstate to doing this kind of work? BRIAN: It’s no secret that Allstate is a big and somewhat conservative company, partly because insurance is inherently a risk-averse business. So even getting all the right people at the company to buy into doing something like this was initially a challenge. Fortunately, we have some outstanding allies in Allstate’s marketing department, and with them, we first worked to build a business case for going after the LGBT market. Once that took off, we got support from Allstate’s many LGBT and LGBT-friendly agents and employees across the company. Throughout the campaign, the only backlash Allstate ended up getting was a single angry email from a complete nutcase. And you know what? State Farm can have him.
THE ÉGALITARIAN: How have you measured the success of the EQUALITY IS campaign, and what are some of the key achievements you can point to? BRIAN: The campaign significantly shifted perceptions of Allstate among the LGBT community, which was our primary marketing objective. Sales of auto policies were also way up during our campaign, which was a great bonus. From an award perspective, the campaign won the grand prize for best LGBT campaign in the United States at the ANA Multicultural Advertising Awards, and also won the grand prize for outstanding digital campaign at the GLAAD Amplifier Awards.
But perhaps the most important thing to come from this collaborative effort is how it’s helped shape the most corporate, internal part of Allstate. Usually product innovations shape communications, but in this case, it’s happening somewhat the other way around. For example, product people who might not have been focused on LGBT people before are now studying what kind of product innovations could better accommodate the unique needs of our community, especially since in many parts of the country, we don’t have the same access to certain legal institutions. I think with our communications and with LGBT agents and employees speaking up, the internal “corporate” part of the company is now evolving to match the reality of the landscape not just of existing and potential customers, but also of their agents and employees all over the country.