Robbie Jones By Robbie Jones • August 7, 2014

Why the meerkats will always win 'battle of the brands'


Who would have thought car insurance would be so fun to buy?

In the space of 10 years, we've gone from a dull renewal letter, to receiving gifts from a nodding dog. The explosion of brand creativity has meant elephants, admirals and various other wacky creatures have joined the queue to cover your car in case of an incident. If a cartoon dog that bares a small resemblance to Winston Churchill wasn't enough - the entrance of the comparison website loons would certainly finish you off.

The comparison 'top 3' of Compare the Market, Go Compare and have asserted themselves on the market with strong identity techniques. Using the positioning of the insurers they are brokering deals for, here's what they came up with to lure drivers into using their comparison services:

Compare the Market

In 2009 according to the Daily Mail, meerkats became Britain's favourite animal, 12 months after the 'Compare the Meerkat' campaign went live. These cheeky-looking, yet ferocious mammals were pushed through the animation convey belt and spat out with a smoking jacket and Russian accent.


The result since the first advert (below) has been phenomenal.

Last year, Compare the Market revealed that it added an extra 2 million customers to its portfolio, as well as securing significant growth and profit increase for business owner, the BGL Group. Profits for the company increased 22% to £72 million.

But surprisingly, it is not the profits where the company has made the most strides. The brand has become a marketing machine with well-oiled TV ads that need no introduction, and an email campaign that gets customers coming back for more.

Cuddly toys

The introduction of a cheap cuddly toy into the mix has also been successful in re marketing to existing customers, who find the burning desire to collect the range of meerkats. Something I would never do...

As their product range expanded to home and life insurance as well as energy bills and credit cards, so too did their customer base resulting in some lengthy waits before customers received their mini Sergi, Oleg or Aleksandr.

How did they respond? With an email like this of course...


And for those who were left waiting for months and months...


There's something to be said about the power of a 'toy'. I've spoken to many adults who shrink down into a child, just like Tom Hanks in Big, before exclaiming "I've got MY meerkat coming soon!".

As I mentioned earlier, the desire to 'collect something' still burns strong in some grown-up hearts and this is exactly what Compare the Market tapped into.

Go Compare

Meerkats aside for a moment, Go Compare and have had a good bash at the market too, with mixed success.

Go Compare have made the UK realise just how annoying a Welsh tenor with a fake moustache can really be. Advertising bombardment has meant people know about Go Compare, but may not use it out of spite.

Despite profits increase of 15% last year, the consensus that the advert was 'annoying' was picked up by the company and referenced to in their 2011 adverts before making him almost obsolete in this year's campaign (see below).

It has done exactly what it says on the tin. has gone through a multitude of characters, awful songs and overly-cheery adverts before finally settling on 'Brian the Robot' - something that has got nothing to do with anything!

Again, just like Go Compare, found that they were getting a tad annoying and decided to change the angle of their campaigns. They also saw a profits increase, contributing to the group's £344 million pre tax profit.

Piggy-backing on the idea of cuddly toys, came up with giving away car stickers of Brian to new customers.

Lagging behind

Both Go Compare and have achieved good sales growth, but in terms of their marketing and brand stance, they are a long way behind the meerkats. Why? Well...

  • The 'Brian the Robot' car sticker is nothing on a cuddly toy
  • Puns such as 'watch your head on the low bills' are nothing on talking meerkats
  • The satisfaction of collecting all meerkats is just too hard to resist (a feeling I would never encounter).

Compare the Market have built Russian meerkats into our consciousness to the edge of brain washing. The thought of a cute meerkat delivering us car insurance is comforting, and probably the only reason why the animals made it to the top of the list of 'Britain's favourite'.

Just like the monkeys in the PG Tips advert from 1971, this campaign has been the 'brand builder from heaven' and something we, as marketers, will aspire to create for the rest of our careers.

PS - OK I admit it, I've got the full collection...