Car insurance isn't exactly the most exciting thing in the world, especially when you have to fork out several hundred quid a year for something that may never happen, but price comparison site comparethemarket.com has lightened the mood with its cross-platform meerkat theme.
The basic premise is that a parallel site is being run by small mammals allowing visitors to compare meerkats rather than insurance quotes. On the rival site, visitors can download videos, desktop themes and ringtones. Indeed, you can also follow the furry chap who 'runs' the site on Twitter- over 14,000 already do this.
Although on the face of it, comparethemeerkat.com is completely pointless, it's actually a very clever device to build brand awareness around a product that would normally be quite boring in a market where there is a lot of competition. The TV ads for comparethemarket.com/ comparethemeerkat.com create curiosity about what comparethemeerkat.com is, leading people to check out the site, where they can download items and spread the word about the 'alternative' brand.
Of course, at all times the real price comparison site at comparethemarket.com is cross-referenced, reminding people of the true point of the whole enterprise. This engages internet users who effectively do the company's marketing for them through online advocacy with a few fun tools provided on the meerkat microsite. Not only does this put them ahead of rivals in terms of brand awareness, but the engagement of mostly unwitting brand champions also raises the credibility of the product.
Also, encouraging people to go on the internet is precisely what a company which operates online wants to do.
Intelligent marketers are increasingly looking at ways to supplement high-cost, low-engagement platforms such as television advertising with low-cost, high-engagement platforms such as social networks and viral videos. This is changing the face of brand promotion, as it becomes more two-way than previously. The key is to combine the use of media in a way which is complementary and enhances the brand with target audiences.