Compare The Market

This week, Emma Flood discusses the advantages of making your brand standing out from the crowd

Earlier this month, I was walking through a large garden centre, when I saw a collection of meerkat statues dressed as various characters, and retailing for around £20. Not in the least bit interested in purchasing one of the bespectacled fluffy mammals, but having seen them on sale in various other outlets, I pondered the sudden interest.

If you’re a UK dweller, you will probably recall an ongoing advertising campaign for a financial comparison website,, who, in a bid to differentiate themselves from their comparison site rivals, launched a sister website, The meerkat story follows Aleksandr Orlov, a talking meerkat and face of, on his travels across Russia. Such has been the success of this advertising campaign, Aleksandr Orlov’s autobiography reached number one in The Sunday Times Bestseller Chart over Christmas 2010, and meerkat lovers have also downloaded his iPhone app, bought his ringtone, and followed him on Twitter. Presumably this meerkat love affair is also driving demand for these fluffy meerkat statues I see so frequently…

You are probably wondering, as I did, what on earth meerkats have to do with financial comparison websites? Let me take you back to the inception of the UK’s first comparison website – Part of the Admiral Group, was launched back in 2002 focusing initially on comparing car insurance quotes, and growing to now run comparisons for most consumer insurance types, as well as for products such as credit cards, savings accounts and mortgages.

Not long after was established, others jumped on the bandwagon, offering very much a “me too” service. After a while, I myself became confused by the plethora of comparison sites available, and struggled to remember the names of the websites, given the similar sounding domains such as:,, etc. I speculate that around this time some research was conducted to understand awareness and usage of these comparison sites, and how or if consumers were able to differentiate between them and remember the particular domain names. If I’m right in thinking that research was carried out, then I might also be right in assuming that the research concluded with the view that consumers were baffled by the array of sites and similar sounding domains, leading to a recommendation for the commissioner of the research to find a way of differentiating either their offering or their message.

Thus, we understand the concept behind Aleksandr Orlov and his meerkat family. Brainchild of the VCCP Agency, and with a concept so far removed from financial comparison websites, we can’t help but remember the meerkat family and even simply typing “meerkat” into Google leads us directly to their comparison site.

Threatened by the success of this advertising campaign, the other comparison sites had to carve out their own niche – regardless of how unbearable it might be for consumers to watch. Enter Welsh tenor Wynne Evans sings “Go Compare!” at the top of his voice. Annoying? Yes. Memorable? Unfortunately so. haven’t quite managed to create such a memorable advertising concept, relying on the faces of Dragon’s Den’s Peter Jones, Iranian Comic Omid Djalili and most recently “Jedward” from X Factor and their matching bouffants.

The founders of the original comparison site,, seem as unable as to carve out a unique and memorable theme, moving from adverts portraying customer testimonials to the current singing cartoon characters. Although they proclaim a following of “20 million users” (I can only assume this means the amount who have registered since 2002), the success of their campaign falls far behind that of Aleksandr Orlov and his meerkat family.

The story of these comparison websites’ successes and failures leads me to think about the importance of ensuring that your business has a strong and distinguishable position in the marketplace. In the case of these websites, it was difficult to differentiate between each, until one stepped forward with a unique “offer”, albeit unlikely. If your offer is not seen as different or better than your competitors, what reason do customers have to choose you, or remain with you? And what is stopping them from switching to a competitor who is positioning themselves as unique or superior to you? Often businesses are not aware of how they are perceived in the market, either by their customers or potential customers. At B2B International, we pride ourselves on providing market research with results that are strategic in nature in order for you to implement improvement and grow your business.

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