All over when they stopped the fat man singing

Voted Britain’s most irritating television ad campaign for two years in a row, insurance comparison site Go Compare recently decided to drop (or at least subvert) their infamous TV ads featuring fictional tenor Gio Compario singing the Go Compare theme in various unusual situations. I agree it was a very annoying advert, but it also created huge brand equity, and has been credited for taking the insurance comparison site from number three to number one in their market.

I think Go Compare might be throwing out a baby with their bathwater. 

The advert is instantly recognisable and the tune has undeniable ‘ear worm’ qualities. Not only is it unique and immediately associated with Go Compare, but it also contains all the information prospective customers need about the service, along with a clear call to action in the form of repeating the company name, which is also the website URL, over and over (and over) again. It’d be a marketer’s dream… if it wasn’t so damn annoying.

To make things worse, what we now have in its place is a series of, frankly, uncomfortable to watch, non-adverts, with the Gio Compario character depicted as awkwardly pitching new ideas to the marketing team such as Gio singing dolls and a piano-playing dog. I can’t see how any business would want to be associated with this kind of squirm-in-the-seat viewing, no matter how tongue in cheek.

What should they have done?

First of all, some basic research at the very outset to check genuine reaction to the ads. They would have found very quickly that people found them annoying. I don’t know if it was the case here, but very often these early preparations can end up being compromised under time and cost pressure, and this can lead to expensive mistakes that are difficult to turn around.

Which takes us back to the here and now, with the investment made, and the adverts already out in the public consciousness. Could there be a way, I wonder, for Go Compare to keep the brand equity they have created with this investment, but dial down some of the more irritating (arguably destructive) aspects of the campaign?

Well, we’re living in a world of increasingly complex engagement channels, social media, public participation, ‘crowd behaviours’. How about Go Compare engaging their customers in this spirit? Say, a series of local roadshows getting the public to sing the theme, with the best, or most memorable, being featured on the TV adverts. Or competitions, along the lines of E4’s highly successful e-stings. Sounds crazy? It’s memorable, it’s engaging, it becomes more human and relatable. At the moment the new ads just seem lost, and depressing.

Leaving my own Gio Compario style pitch to the marketing team to one side for a moment, and for those of us who aren’t £100m insurance giants, what are the lessons that we can take back to the real world? 

Here are my takeaways:

1. Test! By all means don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis, but it always pays to do even the simplest road-testing of new marketing initiatives for basic reaction and effectiveness. It might be a pain, and might even nudge your launch back slightly, but marketing is rarely cheap and this could save you a fortune down the road, especially if you find yourself having to do a Go Compare style about-turn.

2. Recognise the assets you’ve got. I’m not talking about balance sheet assets here. I mean the different attributes, or capabilities, or physical resources that you have available to you. And this is regardless of whether they are unique to you, or also found in your competitors, and whether your customers value or even recognise them. Once you know what assets you have, then you are able to consider how to leverage them in the best way, and protect them, and avoid any wasteful Go Compare baby and bathwater situations.

3. Understand your customers and listen to them. Empathise with their needs and priorities, and reflect this in your marketing and sales speak, and, crucially, your product/service fulfilment. It sounds obvious but few businesses really nail this (see previous blog ‘Who’s Getting Your Customers?‘), and, it seems, the bigger you get the more distant this customer relationship becomes. Some businesses are very successfully using social media specifically for this purpose; to try to restore that personal/emotional connection with their customers.

4. And personally I like this idea of collaboration with customers. This is probably one for another blog, but we’re seeing so many changes in the nature of the supplier/customer/prospect relationship, and if you combine this with newly emerging social media behaviour patterns, and wider public themes of ‘trust’ and ‘loyalty’, then anything that provides a two-way dialogue with customers and communities is precious and powerful.

Now, if only I could get that theme tune out of my head…

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