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The Good Hands: How a pivotal family moment inspired Allstate's longstanding symbol of protection

A physician's reassurance gave a company executive peace of mind. He later tapped into that feeling to develop the advertising slogan and logo

June 4, 2022

The Good Hands® Beacon and the slogan "You're in good hands®" have been hallmarks of Allstate's advertising since 1950. After more than 70 years, the good hands continue to represent the quality protection Allstate provides.

The story behind the famous slogan

The story of Allstate's good hands starts in 1942 when Davis Ellis was hired as the company's Educational Director. Ellis' job was to recruit and train female insurance agents during World War II.

Before coming to Illinois, Ellis started his career in 1923 as a partner in a general insurance agency in Marion, Indiana. Under his leadership, the agency soon became one of the largest in the state.

Ellis was instrumental in several lasting changes at Allstate, and he eventually became Senior Vice President of Sales. One of his biggest contributions was the concept of the Good Hands.

Detailed correspondence from Ellis' 1962 retirement found in the Allstate archive sheds light on how the concept came about. It describes a pivotal moment in 1950 when Ellis' daughter got sick:

"… Dave's daughter JoAnn fell victim to hepatitis. She was an honor student at Evanston High School, the valedictorian of her graduating class, the 'baby' in the Ellis family, and the apple of her parents' eye.

Things didn't look too good to Dave one morning as he started to work. The family physician, Dr. Cummings, had advised the Ellises that [JoAnn] was a pretty sick gal but that he was calling in a specialist, a Dr. Keyser.

That evening a weary Ellis returned from Allstate. As he walked in the door, his wife, Helen, rushed to him, threw her arms around her husband and delightfully reported: 'Dave, the specialist has examined [JoAnn] and Dr. Cummings tells me that JoAnn is in good hands with Dr. Keyser.'"

JoAnn recovered. The 1962 correspondence goes on to note that, at that time, she was married to Bill Williams, an assistant vice president in Allstate's investment department.

Lightbulb moment during a late-night brainstorm

Later in 1950, Ellis was part of a group working into the night to plan Allstate's ad program for the coming year. The group included Bob Gorman, vice president in charge of advertising, and ad agency representatives.

The sun had set, and slogan after suggested slogan was falling short of mutual approval, when Ellis recalled the incident during his daughter's illness.

He remembered how his anxiety eased when hearing those words: in good hands. He suggested using it as a slogan, along with an illustration of a pair of hands cradling a car. Both of Ellis' suggestions were adopted immediately.

Finding the right hands to be the Good Hands

While it was easy enough to decide on the slogan "You're in good hands with Allstate®," picking the hands themselves was another matter. The correspondence from Ellis' 1962 retirement shares the story of the first hands to represent the good hands.

"…hundreds of photos and illustrations were examined showing a pair of human hands in various poses. It was then that we learned of the qualities which different pairs of human hands have. Some hands suggested greed, others humility, etc.

After examining many, many hands, it was decided that the hands of an artist on the Goodkind, Joyce & Morgan [advertising agency] staff were THE hands for Allstate. The individual selected for this honor happened to be an artist whose name was Anderson. He drew his own hands. The work was executed in color."

Shortly thereafter, the first advertisements using the Good Hands® elements appeared in the September 23, 1950, issues of The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's.

Since 1950, the look of the Good Hands® Beacon has evolved into what it is today – and it's become synonymous with the Allstate brand.

In 2020, Allstate began a multi-year initiative to provide protection that is simpler, more affordable and meets you where you are. We've refreshed the look and feel of our advertising, our website and the Allstate® mobile app to reflect this transformation. With all these changes, the Good Hands remain integral to this new visual identity system – signaling that the Allstate brand is both timeless and trendsetting.

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