The Unauthorized Biography of a Gecko or “The History of GEICO Insurance”

Leo and Lillian Goodwin took a calculated risk during the 1930’s Great Depression and started one of the most recognized and well known companies in the United States today.


  • Government
  • Employees
  • Insurance
  • COmpany

Leo Goodwin, believed lower costs by using direct marketing of carefully targeted consumer groups, would result in lower premiums for customers and company profits as well. Goodwin hit the nail on the head and business increased dramatically during 1936, when the GEICO operational headquarters was established in Washington, D.C.

Lillian Goodwin worked in partnership with Leo to build the company from the very start. Lillian took the lead in nearly every area of company operations, a professional bookkeeper (by trade) she assumed responsibility of the company’s accounting and was key in Underwriting policies, establishing rates, issuing policies and marketing auto insurance to the target customers.

In 1948, Lorimer Davidson, an investment banker and a friend of Leo and Lillian Goodwin, helped find GEICO new investors after original investors moved on to other opportunities. Benjamin Gragan was a professor at Columbia University in New York and had Warren Buffett as a student–the rest is history. In 1951 Buffett’s relationship with GEICO was born.

After the death of Leo and Lillian early in the 1970 the company suffered a slump. Eventually tightening-up the underwriting and introducing the 24-hour, 365-day telephone claims and sales services began the upturn. During the 1980’s GEICO focus was on customer service–customer service–customer service. It worked.

In 1993, Olza “Tony” Nicely became the new chairman, president and CEO of GEICO and at the same time a massive increase in the advertising budget made GEICO a household name. GEICOs’ ads and direct mail permeated television, radio, and mailboxes.

The GEICO Gecko appeared in a 2000 television advertising campaign. Today the cute Gecko is a national advertising icon. GIECO has offered several advertising twists and characters, and fills mailboxes and newspapers with some interesting fliers and ads.

The most recent advertising campaign designed to advance the Internet market and target customers has featured the slogan, “It’s so easy a caveman can do it” Featuring prehistoric cavemen living in modern times. The pitch is that signing up for GEICO Auto insurance is so easy that even a caveman can manage to do it. The ads and ABC Television Sitcom will focus on the theme this slogan is prejudice toward cavemen.

Today GEICO’s assets exceed $21.2 billion and as Tony Nicely said,

“… the company’s growth will only be limited by the time it takes to hire knowledgeable associates committed to GEICO’s way of thinking, which can be summed up in these words:

  • Excellent coverage
  • Low prices
  • Outstanding customer service

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