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State Farm Insurance has a presence that goes back farther than most of us can remember, a presence that is as much a part of life as classic holiday movies, comfort food, and beloved grandparents. It’s sort of funny to think of an insurance company that way, but there’s no getting around the fact that the State Farm logo and its jingle weave in and out of our lives like the clouds and an afternoon breeze. Let’s take a closer look at that logo and the company it represents. It goes deeper than insurance.
About the State Farm Brand
State Farm Insurance is one of the best-known American insurance carriers and has been so for many decades. As a matter of fact, it is coming up on a 100-year anniversary, having been formed in 1922. It was founded by a retired farmer named George J. Mecherle and was initially a mutual automobile insurance company specifically for farmers.
It was set up to be owned by its policyholders, meaning it doesn’t answer to stockholders. No stock is sold. Management is primarily concerned with satisfying the collective policyholders. State Farm broadened its services through the years, offering life insurance and insurance for homeowners fairly early in its history. Life insurance was first instituted in 1929 and homeowner’s insurance in 1935.
EXPANSION OF SERVICES OFFERED
In the early 1950s, State Farm took a big step toward expansion when it held a contest among its agents to dream up the best proposal to increase company business. The winner was an agent in Chicago named Robert H. Kent. He suggested that the company provide auto loans to policyholders already insured by State Farm. This opened up a whole new income source from the interest generated by the loans. This led to offering an array of financial services to existing and new customers.
A few examples of this are State Farm Bank, State Farm Investment Management Corporation, and State Farm VP Management Corporation. VP is an abbreviation for Variable Products. Investopedia says, “An attractive feature of the variable life insurance product is its flexibility regarding premium remittance and cash value accumulation. Premiums are not fixed, as with traditional whole life insurance or term insurance policies.” There are also several subsidiary insurance companies that formed between 1960 and 2006 to service the products the company sells.
Mecherle started the company with certain intentions. He envisioned it would hold to the standards of operating fairly and always doing the right thing for the customers. As a former farmer, he most likely wanted to protect farmers against risks – especially those regarding automobiles – that could severely affect their occupational bottom line and drive them out of business. This is a vision that the company professes to uphold today. State Farm states on its website, “Our continued mission is to be the first and best choice in the products and services we provide.”
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CODE OF CONDUCT
State Farm’s Code of Conduct further states: “Our mission at State Farm is to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected and realize their dreams. We have thousands of opportunities to build confidence with customers and State Farm associates every day. We have built a trusted brand by living our values and keeping our promises. Our customers expect us to do the right thing. We depend on each other to do the right thing. By holding ourselves to the highest standards, we can continue to be there for our customers, helping more people in more ways.”
State Farm has to be doing something right. Currently, it is the largest auto insurer and has been since 1942. One in every five American cars is insured by State Farm. It has been the largest insurer of homes since 1964. The Claims Department handles nearly 39,000 claims per day. The company also considers its brand to have an active interest in the community.
On the website, under State Farm Story, is this quote: “A public leader in auto safety efforts, State Farm helped pass a number of seat belt laws and continues to fight for seat belt and teen driver safety. We are also heavily involved in and support communities through sponsorship of safety programs and organizations. We help build strong communities through activities aimed at preventing and reducing injury and loss. State Farm supports programs that enable home ownership, help create safe neighborhoods, and make homes and highways safer.”
State Farm Logo Design History
Image via Wikimedia
Our research would suggest there was no standard State Farm logo from the inception of the company until at least the mid-1940s. If there was, it’s not being displayed on any State Farm promotional material. The State Farm logo with which we are so familiar was designed in 1953 and was a moderate revision of the 1940’s model. It was probably a team effort because neither the company website nor any other source we found names a specific person who created it.
At the time, State Farm was still considered an insurance company only. They were offering the three basic policies as named above: auto, life, and home. These were featured on the logo, each encased in its own oval and each of those were interlocking, outlined in red. It also identified State Farm as “State Farm Insurance.”
The logo was bright red on a background of white, with a squarish border also of red. The design worked for the company as it continued to grow. The image was seen in advertising, on agency signs, at catastrophe sites, and on many customers’ automobile bumpers, building trust based on its stability.
State Farm Logo Evolution
The stability of the State Farm logo did nothing to stimulate the evolution of the iconic design. Approximately 58 years passed before the company found it necessary to make a change. If it hadn’t been for this digital aspect of the Information Age, the old logo may still be in place.The company’s consistent, stable growth means there is a wide age range of customers, young and old and everything between. Advertising platforms have, of course, expanded to social media and other digital applications. It had become evident that the old design should be tweaked to make it more user-friendly on all platforms.
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In 2010, the company hired a famous graphic design firm in New York, Chermayeff & Geismar, to make the changes. The project took approximately two years to complete. Considering the subtle nature of the alterations, we have to wonder how many times the two firms went back and forth with suggestions and rejections before finally coming to the final product satisfactory to all.
The biggest revision was the removal of the squarish box that contained the key information – the insurance company name and what they’re selling. The logo is so recognizable, management was willing to trust that such basic information could be omitted as long as the interlocking trio of ovals were still in place. So, the red ovals are now empty and more prominent. They convey the information without the text, which really wasn’t that necessary anyway since “State Farm” is there in big letters to the right of the old box.
The current version keeps the company name adjacent to the tri-oval, on the right. The letters are similar to the former ones, but hand-drawn to make them appear sleeker. The result is a simpler look that both takes a minimalistic approach and is useful for more practical application.
As State Farm wrote in a press release at the time of the change, “In today’s digital and mobile world this simple and contemporary design makes for a bolder presence in the marketplace whether it’s through a billboard, television advertising, a sign outside an agent’s office, online or through one of our mobile web applications.”
Image via Flickr
State Farm is thought of primarily as an insurance company still today even though it offers so many more major services. The evolution of the State Farm logo enables the company to maintain the name recognition it has earned while opening itself to a more general interpretation by the public as the broad-based company it has become. This is an excellent example of how important a logo can be to a company. If done wrong, a logo can limit the perception of the organization by the people who are potential consumers – the lifeblood of the enterprise.On the other hand, a logo can potentially convey all the company is and could be for the people who are considering the use of its products or services. When you consider that a top-flight graphic design firm took two years to complete this project of updating an already highly regarded State Farm logo, making fairly subtle changes, it emphasizes just how important a logo is to a business.In this case, an established giant in the insurance field, one that is ranked 36th by the Fortune 500 list of the largest companies in terms of revenue, found it so important to get it right that it used the elite outside firm and probably paid dearly for two years of painstaking work. The logo cannot be taken lightly.