- State Farm marketing chief Rand Harbert is retiring from the insurance company on Jan. 1 following a 12-year run, according to a press release.
- Harbert, who got his start as an agent in 1992, oversaw key initiatives as CMO, including an overhaul of the State Farm logo and brand positioning and bringing back Jake from State Farm, a popular spokes-character. The executive will be replaced by Kristyn Cook, a senior vice president who’s worked closely alongside him for the past three years.
- Cook, also a former agent at the insurance firm, has prioritized forward-facing channels like TikTok, gaming and the metaverse as State Farm courts a younger and more diverse crowd of consumers that are averse to traditional media.
Rand Harbert’s run as CMO of State Farm produced memorable marketing that’s helped keep the brand fresh in a competitive and fast-changing insurance category. A 12-year stint is an unusually long one for a C-suite appointment where the average tenure has dwindled to just 40 months. The chief marketer spot has also increasingly been replaced by hybrid functions and part-time, or “fractional,” CMOs.
The insurance industry is well-known for aggressive paid media strategies and campaigns populated with colorful characters and ear-worm jingles, with State Farm operating in a field that features heavy hitters like Progressive, Geico, Farmers Insurance Group and Liberty Mutual. Despite that, several initiatives stewarded by Harbert have made a lasting impression.
Early in his term, the executive revamped the State Farm logo and “Like a good neighbor” tagline to target a younger crowd. Jake from State Farm, a wholesome, khaki-wearing agent character, was brought back into the marketing rotation two years ago to great success.
The re-imagined mascot, who was initially conceived in the early 2010s and today is played by Kevin Miles, has starred in several TV campaigns and also more experimental bets around areas like gaming. Jake from State Farm was integrated into a recent installment of the NBA 2K video game franchise.
That type of activation could serve as an indicator of what State Farm will prioritize as Cook becomes CMO starting next year. Her marketing focus so far has been around emergent channels that are favored by Gen Z and millennials, such as TikTok and gaming, but such markets can be difficult when it comes to standing out. In the announcement, Cook was described as “instrumental in reshaping the State Farm marketing strategy, expanding beyond traditional media and historically targeted demographics.”
State Farm has started dipping its toes into future-facing concepts as well. The brand is sponsoring iHeartMedia’s new persistent metaverse spaces on Roblox and Fortnite.