Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Monday, May 27, 2024 74° Today's Paper


Ukulele star Shimabukuro named Farmers pitchman

Erika Engle

Hawaii recording artist Jake Shimabukuro will start the new year with a new CD release and a new one-year celebrity endorsement deal for Farmers Insurance Hawaii. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

The company has been conducting a social media teaser contest on Twitter, Facebook and its website titled, "Guess Who Switched to Farmers?" and the answer was just revealed to you.

The advertising will break in early January, said Farmers Hawaii President Michele Saito, as will Shimabukuro’s new CD, titled "Peace Love Ukulele." Those of you who entered the contest and guessed Shimabukuro will get the new CD as your prize.

The CD will be released Jan. 4, the day after a free CD release party at DFS Galleria in Waikiki, tentatively set for 7 p.m. The 34-year-old Shimabukuro predicts "a fun concert" with a five-piece band including drummer Noel Okimoto, Dean Taba on bass, Michael Grande on piano and Iggy Jang on violin. "The four of them were very instrumental in this next record," he told TheBuzz, no pun intended.

A spokes-player for Oceanic Time Warner’s Road Runner Internet service some 10 years ago and an old hand at endorsements in Japan, Shimabukuro will appear in Farmers Hawaii’s print and broadcast ads and in its social media campaigns, and as part of community service plans both share, such as empowerment-building school appearances, he said. He also will write custom promotional music that will include a Shimabukuro-fied spin on Farmers’ national jingle.

"Obviously we thought he’d be a great spokesperson for our company," Saito said. "He’s really a Hawaii product, born and raised here — our people can really relate to him."

There would seemingly be little to no risk for the insurance company’s selection of the reputably squeaky-clean Shimabukuro — and there was no discussion of the types of reputation risk insurance that received news coverage after Tiger Woods’ image crashed and burned, causing a reported $12 billion in damage to companies whose products he endorsed.

"We don’t feel that concern and neither did our corporate office," Saito said.

Interestingly, Shimabukuro did his own due diligence before fully deciding to sign on.

"I like to know who I’m working with," he said. He, too, has a brand to protect.

His decision to go forward involved actually switching insurance carriers, and Farmers had made arrangements for him to speak with a specific person to get his policy set up.

Instead, he went to the company website, got the phone number as would anyone else, and "I called and got a real person."

He did not immediately identify himself and without knowing to whom they were speaking, "they were super nice … I made the switch right there and it was fantastic."

"If I’m going to tell people they should make the switch, I wanted to see for myself how easy it was and how the service was. My mom’s going to be switching over, too," he said.

Farmers Group Inc. is the Los Angeles-based U.S. subsidiary of Zurich Financial Services, but "one of the things I appreciate is they’re 100 percent locally run," Shimabukuro said. "Working with them here in Hawaii is truly an honor."

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at erika@staradvertiser.com.


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