If you can tell a story that resonates with consumers, you increase the chances that they will remember you. Hiscox, a specialty insurer for small businesses, believes its online sitcom, Leap Year, does exactly that.
Entering its second season this summer, Leap Year is a Web-only comedy series that follows five friends who "leaped" into entrepreneurship as the result of a corporate downsizing and found themselves competing in a contest for a prize of half a million dollars in funding for the winning start-up.
"We were looking for a way to start a conversation with small business owners that could help build an awareness of our brand," says Hunter Hoffmann, U.S. communications director for Hiscox. "It had to be something that viewers would find interesting [that] also highlights the issues that businesses deal with."
Developed in collaboration with CJP Digital Media and Happy Guillotine Films, Leap Year was the brainchild of Wilson Cleveland, founder and executive producer at CJP Digital Media. "We looked at the various insurance products Hiscox offers. In this case, the offerings were targeted at freelancers and start-ups, and we looked at the risks that they cover. We then wrote the story around those situations," explains Cleveland, who also stars in the series.
Hiscox also partnered with the Young Entrepreneur Council, which provides tools and resources to support the business development goals of its members, to author a series of exclusive columns for the Leap Year site.
The series, launched in June 2011, consists of 10 episodes each approximately 10 minutes long. Available on Hulu and YouTube, it amassed more than five million views in the first season. The feedback from customers and the online community was that the series successfully explored themes that ring true for small businesses.
On the social media side, the Leap Year page on Facebook received over 1.8 million impressions (likes, shares, page post views, comments, etc.); there were more than six million Twitter impressions. The show also sent more than 440,500 visitors to the Hiscox-branded Leap Year sites and social media profile pages.
Season two follows the main characters as they race to bring their C3D holographic Web conferencing device to market while trying to stay ahead of a competing start-up. The leader of the other start-up is played by Joshua Malina of the television shows Scandal and The West Wing. The group will receive guidance from actual mentors of the TechStars start-up accelerator program, including TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen and Managing Director David Tisch. The episodes have also been expanded to approximately 20 minutes each.
Actors Steven Weber and Emma Caulfield will also guest star this season, along with Craig Bierko and Julie Warner.
According to Hoffmann, part of what makes the show successful is the lack of product placements. Hiscox left references to its name out of the episodes with the exception of the opening and closing credits. "If everyone was wearing a Hiscox polo shirt, the show would have never worked," Hoffmann notes. "Leap Year is part of an integrated marketing campaign, but its main purpose is to entertain and provide a compelling story that is relevant within the small business community."
Since it partnered with CJP Digital Media and Happy Guillotine Films, Hiscox has:
- sent more than 440,500 visitors to its branded Leap Year sites and social media pages;
- received over 1.8 million impressions on Facebook; and
- garnered more than six million Twitter impressions.