If you’ve happened to catch any of the latest round of TV spots from Nationwide Insurance, you might have noticed something interesting about the Ohio-based insurance company’s new branding strategy. The overall concept is the communitarian notion of a “Nation of Members,” which is sharply contrasted with “shareholders.”
In many of the spots the company argues that it deserves to be trusted because Nationwide “doesn’t have shareholders, so we can protect our members first.”
We’re also told in the “Invitation” commercial that Nationwide puts “people over profits.”
This is language that could have come right out of the Occupy movement.
Even more remarkable is the campaign’s target: NASCAR fans. NASCAR imagery and stars including racing legend Dale Earnhardt, Jr. figure throughout. NASCAR culture, which is rooted in the conservative South, is not where you’d normally expect consumers to be receptive to what could be characterized as a politically progressive message.
Now, it would be going too far to say that the campaign is anti-corporate, but it is explicitly anti-Wall Street. “Shareholders” are the implied enemy. The obsession with stock prices—so goes Nationwide’s pitch—is what keeps other insurance companies from treating you fairly.
We saw in last year’s SuperBowl ads the first inklings of this anti-Wall Street meme. Elton John’s declaration of “Pepsi for All” alluded to the importance of sharing the wealth with the 99%. MetLife argued that “every family, everywhere, should have the financial security they need, not just those who can figure it out.”
But to my knowledge this is the first time the idea of “shareholders”—and the kind of corporate structures that require them—has been used as a foil for an advertiser’s claim of its own value and its own virtue.
Whether or not Nationwide is cynically exploiting or co-opting the anti-Wall Street message is open for debate.
But it’s worth taking note of the degree to which America’s corporations are now willing to openly critique a central tenet of modern capitalism in order to appeal to even its most conservative consumers.