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?