Progressive Insurance’s mid-August social media-driven controversy has brought the company to its lowest U.S. consumer perception level in more than four years, a research firm said this week.
The consumer perception was measured by YouGov, an international internet-based market research firm that tracks public perceptions of major corporate brands. YouGov’s BrandIndex Buzz score asked 2,500 adult respondents: “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” YouGov continuously tracks consumers’ perception of Progressive and other major insurers at regular intervals.
The BrandIndex measurement scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
YouGov said that when the firm measured Progressive back in February, the insurer had already been experiencing a long-term downtrend in consumer perception since fall 2010, and had already been eclipsed by Allstate and State Farm.
The recent car accident court case, publicized by the victim’s brother Matt Fisher, seems to have generated enough bad publicity to accelerate Progressive’s decline sharply, the research firm said.
Progressive’s Buzz score bottomed out on August 23 with no sign of upturn yet, according to the firm.
“To put the consumer perception situation in perspective, Progressive and its closest perception rival, Nationwide, were neck and neck on Buzz scores for 2012 through mid-August, until the court case blew up a few weeks ago,” said Ted Marzilli, who leads YouGov’s BrandIndex global business unit.
“Progressive’s Buzz scores fell off sharply, leaving Nationwide with more than twice the perception levels. GEICO, continuing its heavy advertising featuring the ‘lizard’ has remained well ahead of both all year.”
YouGov said Progressive’s Buzz score fluctuated between 11 and 19 during the year until mid-August. It reached its peak on July 2 with a 19 score. On August 13, just before word hit about Matt Fisher’s court case, their score was 14.
But 10 days later, they were down to 6, where they still remain.
The biggest Buzz score gap between Progressive and Nationwide in 2012 before the social media-driven controversy was 6 points on March 14, with Nationwide’s 17 score to Progressive’s 11. Now that margin has grown to 10, the firm said. GEICO has spent most of the year with a Buzz score hovering between 18 and 21 points, currently standing at 20 — four points ahead of Nationwide and 14 points ahead of Progressive.