Compare the Meerkat — brilliance or borrowed interest?

compare-the-meerkat

Everyone seems to be singing the praises of Compare the Meerkat — an integrated marketing campaign for the UK price comparison site comparethemarket.com featuring “spokes-critter” Alexandr Orlov.  Alexandr engages with us on TV, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and his own microsite.  The campaign is bold, funny and distinctive, but is it working?  This is a genuine question.  Does anyone know?  I haven’t been able to find any business results or analysis.

As much as I admire comparethemarket.com for expanding beyond the comfort zone of traditional media, I remain skeptical about the campaign’s effectiveness.  It has undoubtedly generated a tremendous amount of buzz and good will.  Furry Alexandr’s Facebook page boasts 342,567  fans and he has 11,179 Twitter followers, including me.  This should theoretically boost top-of-mind awareness for the company, which is nothing to sniff at in an online category that has grown fat with more or less indistinguishable offers.

But most of the talk seems to be about the campaign and not about the brand.  In fact, the heart of the idea is Alexandr telling everyone that if you’re looking to compare prices, you’ve come to the wrong place.  Okay — most of us who spend any time thinking about this marketing and advertising stuff get the point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a sizable number of potential customers don’t.  If there’s one thing that often misguides marketers and the agencies that create their communications, it’s the egotistical fantasy that the general public spends as much time thinking about the brand and its advertising as they do.  In fact, most people couldn’t give a “meerkat’s ass” about most brands, and aren’t ready to invest more than a millisecond of their brain power figuring out advertising that isn’t clear about what it’s selling.

On the other hand, I could see a possible strategic rationale in keeping people engaged with comparethemarket.com through the ongoing entertainment value of Alexandr and his various meerkats.  When the time came that a particular customer entered the market for insurance, comparethemarket.com would be the destination of choice.

Judging by the comments and topic discussions on Alexandrs Facebook page, his fans certainly seem to be engaged — with Alexandr, with meerkats, and with all sorts of things relating to that.  The one thing they don’t seem to be engaged with is comparethemarket.com.  I don’t have the impression that anyone remembers that Alexandr is connected with the service, if they ever even noticed to begin with, or even cared.  There’s a ballooning cult behind Alexandr.  It appears a star has been born — but it’s not the brand.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of social media for brands.  (Why the heck would I write this blog if I didn’t.) But I’m not sure that Compare the Meerkat does justice to the potential of social media to connect consumers and brands, nor that it will be anything more than the bright blaze of a social media fad that will eventually sputter out.  I’d be happy to be proven wrong.  I would love to see evidence that this isn’t just borrowed interest, but brilliance indeed.

Does anybody out there have it?

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Compare the Meerkat — brilliance or borrowed interest?

  1. amy

    I agree with your observations. With so many websites in this category (comparethemarket, gocompare, confused) I wonder if users make the differentiation between this one and the others. It should be straightforward (simply swopping the market with meerkat) but I wonder how many people remember that this is the case.
    Repetition of things works for a reason (Think how many times they say elephant.co.uk in that TV ad!) – like you say, its a great example of building up a cult personality, brilliant campaign integration but the proof will be in seeing case studies of results.

  2. Go Compare a Meerkat

    Actually here’s a phrase – “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you”. A similar thing applies here. Just because they are not talking about Compare the Market.com, doesn’t mean that they don’t know or don’t remember the service. The power of this Advert lies in the fact that it is truly weird (Well what else can you say about an advert starring a talking meerkat, wearing a velvet smoking jacket and with an Eastern European accent) and the amount of times it is on, ingrains itself in the memory, so whenever you think about Comparing Insurance prices, you’ll think about Compare the Market.) It works also because the jingle is so bloody catchy. Just trying humming the jingle in a crowd of people and some would go off humming the same jingle or singing “Compare the Meerkat.com”, others would be asking why are you humming that tune from the insurance advert, whilst the rest would be on their phones, phoning up the nearest mental asylum to say that there is some bloke running wild humming that jingle from the Insurance advert and are they missing a patient🙂

  3. Stephen Rothman

    Thanks for the fun comment. Oh dear, I don’t know the jingle. I better check it out. Anyway, you may be right. But on the other hand — just because they’re thinking about Meerkats doesn’t mean they’re connecting it to comparing insurance offers. I’ve heard several people say they know the campaign, but didn’t realize it was also a insurance comparison web site.

  4. Interessting viewpoint!

    I think the campaign was successful indeed. Given that the brief for the agency was to create brand awareness and for Compare The Market to stand out in a very crowded market, this campaign has achieved its return on investment. Whilst a few months ago people did not know the brad at all, the wide public is aware of the brand. Moreover, in terms of SEO efforts they achieve top rankings. They engage with a very large number of different individuals and interactivity is shown on Twitter, Facebook as well as You Tube. Personally, I don’t believe that people are not aware of the campaigns connection to Compare The Market, not after all those different clips building up on the same story.

    I’ve written an article about it, you may be interessted to have a read🙂

    http://joyfleur.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/marketing-strategy-comparethemeerkat-com/

    • Stephen Rothman

      Thanks for a great comment and link. Your point about SEO is well taken. Encourage any one who is interested in this campaign to read Joy-Fleur’s blog post as well as the comments that provide good perspectives as well.

  5. I saw a result last week which looked impressive, can’t find it now though…

  6. I think its great, It certainly had me searching to see if the website was real.

  7. Pingback: Compare the Meerkat – case study | gray dudek

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