- "I am perfectly willing to spend whatever it takes to get everyone in the country to check our price," says Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A, BRK.B) Geico's ubiquitous ads - the company spent $1.2B last year (and Buffett says it will be more in 2014) - account for nearly 25% of all U.S. insurance companies' advertising spending. And it made Berkshire Hathaway the 7th largest advertiser in the country in 2013.
- Since shortly after current CEO Tony Nicely took the top job at Geico in 1993, the insurer's market share in personal auto insurance has about quadrupled to 10%, and last year the company became the 2nd largest U.S. auto insurer - behind State Farm, but ahead of Allstate and Progressive. Pretax underwriting profit of $393M in 2013 was up 17% from a year earlier.
- One reason for the need for the lavish ad spending for this otherwise thrifty company: Geico doesn't use agents, but instead sells policies directly to consumers via the Web or the phone.
- Geico execs are "cost-conscious connoisseurs," says the author of an upcoming book on Berkshire. "At headquarters, they're as thrifty as can be….Geico is the quintessential Berkshire company."