The Erin Esurance Autopsy: She Was Less Popular Than Microsoft's "Clippy"

Last Updated Jun 16, 2010 5:29 PM EDT

Erin Esurance had less appeal and awareness than Microsoft's (MSFT) universally hated "Clippy" icon, according to a corporate mascot tracking survey by E-Poll Market Research, which may be one reason why she was recently canceled in favor of new advertising.

I suggested yesterday that Esurance may have axed Erin because home-made pornographic images of the pink-haired secret agent vastly overwhelmed actual images of the brand icon on the web. But E-Poll data from September 2009, when Erin was alive and well, suggests she ranked poorly even against second-rate icons such as Clippy, the Gorton's Fisherman and Pep Boys' Manny, Moe and Jack.

(Clippy was an animated "help" character that popped up unbidden in Microsoft's Word software to ask things like, "It looks like you're writing a letter. Would you like help?" -- usually when you weren't actually writing a letter. It was discontinued in 2007.)

E-Poll's Randy Parker told me:

She is one of the lowest rated corporate mascots in our survey. Her appeal number of 18% (22% for males) is well below the category average of 33%, while her total awareness at 13% is far below category average of 37%.
Here are her rankings:
  • Awareness Pep Boys 17 Microsoft's Clippy 24 Erin Esurance 13 Gorton's Fisherman 13 Category Average: 37
  • Appeal Microsoft's Clippy 24 Erin Esurance 18 Gorton's Fisherman 20 Pep Boys 14 Category Average: 34
  • Annoying Gorton's Fisherman 3 Pep Boys 10 Erin Esurance 30 Microsoft's Clippy 46 Category Average: 17
Erin faired similarly badly under the "believable," "funny" and "sincere" categories. She did, however, score top at 19 in the "sexy" ranking, where the category average is 1.

If you don't believe that Erin's fanbase among bondage enthusiasts killed her career, then my theory would be that her low rank on the "funny" and "annoying" scales had much to do with her demise: The ads were supposed to be comedic but the premise -- a spy who buys a lot of auto insurance -- frequently made no sense whatsoever. Ads rely on repeat viewing, and it's difficult to like something that doesn't obey its own internal logic.

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