31/03/2011 00 ~ 0 0~T0 WHAT EXTENT DOES MOULDING BRAND By Frances O’BrienVALUES INTO A MEMORABLE CHARACTER Student number: 200419538HELP TOWARDS THE INCREASE OF A BRAND’SAWARENESS IN THE DIGITAL AGE; WITHCLOSE REFERENCE TO THE COMPARE THE The School of Design,MARKET CAMPAIGN AND OTHER BRITISH University of Leeds,PRICE COMPARISON SITES. This dissertation is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Art and Design
1Contents:1. Introduction…………………………………………………………………...........……22. Literature Review………………………………………………………………………...4 2.1 Chapter 1: Branding…………………………………………………………….4 2.1.1 The History of Branding…………………………………………....4 2.1.2 What is the Role of a Brand?.............................................................5 2.1.3 The Changing Audience…………………………………………….7 2.1.4 The Changing Environment………………………………………...93. Chapter 2: Characters……………………………………………………………………13 3.1The History of Characters……………………………………………………....13 3.2 Characters in Price Comparison Sites……………………………………….…15 3.3 Celebrity Endorsements………………………………………………………..184. Chapter 3: Methodology…………………………………………………….......……....195. Chapter 4: Results and Discussion……………………………………………………....215.1 Brand Metrics…………………………………………………………………………..215.2 Brand Associations within the Name…………………………………………………..225.3 The Marketing Strategy of Compare the Market………………………………………255.4 The Competition………………………………………………………………………..275.5 The Human Characteristics……………………………………………………………..315.6 The Accent and Tone of voice……………………………………………………….....335.7 The Humour………………………………………………………………………….....366. Chapter 5: The Conclusion…………………………………………………………….....387. The Bibliography................................................................................................................418. The Appendix.....................................................................................................................47
2 The IntroductionThe use of characters in advertising have been around for decades, however new technologyand marketing trends have affected the way they are used to sell products and services.Characters used to be quite limited and synonymous in approach where they lacked a properengagement with customers, appearing primarily in printed form. With the advancement oftechnology, particularly in computer animation, characters are now able to form more of aunique identity and personality. Traditionally, characters were used in above the lineadvertising but in the digital age, there is now so much pressure to compete making it vital topromote them through a wide variety of channels at more of a personal level in order tosurvive (Costa, 2010).The recession has led to a widespread societal change in terms of purchasing behaviour (DDB, 2009).This has resulted in an increased desire for customers to seek “real” connections with brands and socharacters are proving to be successful brand ambassadors (Costa, 2010). Furthermore, the recentrevival of the animated film industry, which was once rooted on children’s entertainment, isnow targeted at all age groups and has thus created a great appreciation for characters(Calcott, 1994). With the widespread respect for characters today and the vast improvementsin technology, they are now seen as incredibly powerful marketing tools as they have theability to create memorable brand associations and form strong relationships with customers.Chapter one will access the changing environment, which has directly affected customerneeds and it will also look into the developments of branding throughout history up to its roletoday.
3The creation of brand awareness is vital in the early stages of advertising in order todifferentiate itself from the competition. It can play a dominant role in purchasing decisionsas the more aware consumers are of your brand, the more likely they are to buy from you.The changes in the environment and the audience as well as technological advancementshave resulted in a highly competitive environment. This has also changed the expectations ofpeople as to what brands should be offering and therefore the concept of the brand experiencehas been introduced. This concept engages people more through the senses and helpscompeting brands stand out from one another. In the digital age, differentiation seems tocome from the on-demand digital services they deliver to your customers rather than theactual products they are selling. Products are now transforming into services just so that theycan stand out from the competition (Mathieson, 2010).The greatest use of brand characters largely comes from highly commoditised sectors such asinsurance, food and utilities. The top four British price comparison sites, Compare theMarket, Go Compare, Money Supermarket and Confused, all contain characters. Such sitesused to promote their services in conventional ways where they stated how much money acustomer could save. The price comparison market is now extremely competitive and socompanies have realised that it is necessary to compete on more than just price and volumewhere they must create something memorable in order to connect emotionally withconsumers (Dolak, 2005). Purchasing is an emotional decision making process so if acharacter evoking an endearing quality is created, the brand will have an advantage overrivals. Chapter two will deal with the history of characters so comparisons can be madebetween the past and present. The focus will move onto characters in price comparison siteswhere it will involve looking at what they have done in the past and then chapter four willaccess what they must now do in order to compete.
4 BrandingThe History of BrandingThe history of branding can be traced back many centuries ago during Greek and Romantimes, long before the term was actually established. Messages would be written informingthe public of the local trade (Murphy, 1987). However, this system of marking by hand, madeit difficult to attach meaning or add values to goods.Modern branding and the use of individual brand names have its origin in the nineteenthcentury. The Industrial revolution and the consequent development of advertising andmarketing techniques as well as innovations in production, printing and packaging made themass branding of goods possible and available for consumers to buy (Moor, 2007). However,these products and services were produced on such a large scale that they catered for anational market with a common use of iconic national imagery, rather than by targeting aselect few (Moor, 2007). They were also mainly targeted at women in general who tended tostay at home whilst the husband worked and was therefore in charge of buying householdproducts (Dotz, 2003).The dramatic transformation of brands came in 1967 when Corporate Identity was introducedby Henrion and Parkin who published Design Coordination and Public image (Moor, 2007).Corporate Identity consisted of creating a unique identity of an organisation so that itsstrategy, structure and vision were all visible. As globalisation became more dominant therewas a rise in multinational corporations, which meant that the national corporations could nolonger function properly. Therefore the use of the corporate identity strategy wasimplemented, which is now an important practice used today. It is becoming even more
5popular as products and services are becoming harder to differentiate, which means thatconsumers make purchases on emotional rather than rational grounds (Olins, 1994). It used tobe possible to choose between competing products and services on the basis of price, qualityor service. Today this is not the case as there is no real difference between the products andservices of the leading organisations within the market, especially within the field ofinsurance. Therefore emotional factors are playing important roles in achieving thatdifferentiation and that is why companies are increasingly investing in corporate brandingstructures. All organisations have an identity but it is the management of it that sets apartsuccessful brands from one another.What is the role of a brand?Brands prevent products from simply becoming a commodity so that they can add value totheir products (Murphy, 1987). Their main function is to attract the customer’s attention andthen retain their loyalty thereafter. The challenge for all brands is that they have a distinct,clear image that matters to customers and truly differentiates them from the rest (Aaker,1996). In order to accomplish this, they must be memorable, communicate something aboutthe product and be linked to a visual image (Ries, 1995). They must also adapt to thechanging environment and needs of the audience as Davidson states,‘A brand is a constantly changing mental inventory inside the customer’s mind.’ (Cocoran,2007, p. 27)In recent times, dramatic changes to branding have taken place where their role hascompletely altered. Branding now plays a part in everyday life in Western societies and itaffects more sectors than ever before as the competition in the markets increase at such a
6dramatic rate. It has moved from the periphery to the centre of corporate concern where therehas been greater investment on it. (Olins, 2008) It no longer just applies to businesses alone;it has evolved so much that it is now commonly used in non-commercial organizations aswell as individuals and places that want to ‘rebrand’ themselves. (Davis, 2009) Branding isset to expand even further as globalisation continues to introduce western brands todeveloping countries, resulting in new markets and therefore offering huge potential. Withthe increase of new technologies being introduced all over the world, branding and brandawareness is spreading like never before. Wally Olins has written several books on brands,continuously highlighting their impact on society today:‘The brand has become such a significant phenomenon of our time that it is almostimpossible to express any ideas, or even delineate personalities, without branding them.’(Olins, 2003, p.23)Brands clearly play such a dominant role in our lives where they represent more than just thedevelopment of a memorable name, a logo and a slogan but instead must combine effectivelyto create a differentiated personality. They now seem to show even more importance than theproducts and services they sell. The digital age has made brands strive to contain all the latestmedia channels and social networking sites without showing much relevance to what isactually being sold and in some cases the quality of the product. Their main role today seemsto be more about being memorable and creating as much brand exposure possible.
7The changing audienceConsumers seem to have more control over brands than ever before so much so that they aredeveloping the brand more than the marketers themselves. According to a recent IPA FutureFoundation report, social networking has had such a huge impact that it is transformingsociety. The report stated how it is turning the tables on convention and putting the consumerin control (Mitchell, 2009). Customer demands have changed where their needs are no longerpart of a mass audience but are centred on a real empathy. Hoffman’s research involveselevating a brand’s functionality to a more emotional one where she states,‘Brands are inherently emotional things. A brand is not owned by the people whommanufacture it, it’s owned by the people who think about it. The customers. It’s theresponsibility of brand managers to tap into some essential human need that a certain groupof consumers think about and share.’ (Adamson, 2009, p.62)This statement is accurate as consumers are more likely to engage in a brand that offers apersonal element that they can relate to. The editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, ChrisAnderson, backs this up by suggesting that business growth comes from creating nichesrather than the mass market as he states:“"They satisfy narrow interests better, and in one aspect of our life or another we all havesome narrow interest." (Duff, 2011)Therefore, adding a personal element is clearly an important part of forging strongerrelationships with customers.The theme of emotion in branding is examined throughout the book, Passion Branding whereDuffy talks about today’s society as ‘the passion economy.’ In her words, this consists of:
8‘An economy where brands on their own are no longer enough, where consumers demandthat they be treated like people and that marketers respond to both their customers’ emotionaland functional needs.’ (Duffy, 2003, p.6)So she is saying that it is crucial to find out more about your consumers so that you candiscover their needs and from them on treat them with respect by engaging with themregularly. Duffy brings up the point of how everyone is trying to build a brand and the way inwhich to differentiate your products and services is to engage more with customers, creatingstronger connections. Ravi Naidoo, Managing director of Interactive Africa blames thissudden popularity of brands on the digital age,‘We seem to live in an age of super parity-similar products being overlaid by similarmarketing campaigns...With the pervasive reach of media, most marketers read the samearticles and start to sound alike...it needs to be more human, more visceral, more authentic.’(Duffy, 2003, p.13)In order to make it more personal, marketers need to think of more ways to engage withcustomers. Peter Dene from Churchill believes a character can do just that;“In such a crowded, competitive market a character can create pure brand salience.” (Costa,2010).However, Bryan Urbick, director of research consultancy the Consumer Knowledge Centre(CKC) stresses the importance of the brand’s management,“Any brand can create a character, but it depends on how it is executed.” (Costa, 2010)Therefore the character’s management is of utmost importance as well as getting to knowyour audience so that the character can engage to its full potential.
9Simultaneously, marketers have never had as much control over customers until now wherethey are being invited into the public’s lives by making personal information available andeasily accessible online. Marketers have access to real time information such as buying habitsand other related personal information. They also have easy access to customers’ thoughtsand actions, whether they are posted on blogs, on corporate websites, review boards or on thewalls of social networking sites. Customers can also directly engage on a one to one levelsuch as where brands have the opportunity to communicate with consumers through tweets,participate in review sites and comment on blogs (Adamson, 2008). The digital space is alsoa way of keeping the conversation ongoing and so it is a useful way of keeping customersengaged over a long period of time. This interactivity on the web has overall resulted in adeeper understanding of consumers, their interests, needs and desires and therefore evencloser relationships can be formed. The better quality the insights are, the more chances thereare of meeting customer demands.The changing environmentTechnological advances have resulted in a change to human activities. Digital mediaconsumption has not yet overtaken television as the most effective way of reaching largeaudiences in a short period of time, however it is certain that audiences are now spendingmore time online in favour of conventional media than in the past (IAB Europe White paper,2010). Research published in 2010 reveals that a third of television viewers now watch theirfavourite programmes online (Hutchinson, 2010). The main reasons for this change has beena rise in high speed internet connections combined with higher PC ownership, which has
10been made possible by lower prices of new PC hardware. Between 2004 and 2009, theproportion of those claiming to have broadband at home increased by 48.3%, according toBMRB. There has also been an increase in the amount of PCs within a single household andso this allows numerous members to be logged in at the same time (Mintel, 2009). It is vitalfor a brand to adapt to social change in order to retain its position in the market and so brandsmust compete online whilst still delivering offline. This has dramatically changed therelationship between a brand and its customer. It has opened up many opportunities forbrands with the most obvious being an easier format of targeting customers, as personalinformation is easily accessible. This has also resulted in a change in customer demand wherethey now expect more from a brand and seek deeper, more personal connections.One of the largest societal shifts for brands has been the introduction of social networkingsites, which offer brands new ways of engaging with their audience. The most popular waysin the UK include corporate Twitter accounts to allow one-to-one interaction with customersand corporate brand pages on Facebook, allowing brands to share content and news, gatherfeedback and build a fan base. With the increased access to high speed Internet, there hasbeen a direct increase in popularity of social Networking sites and it is now considered anintegral part of people’s everyday lives. These sites are graphically intensive, and would beslow and difficult to manage without a Broadband connection. At the same time thepermanent online connection makes it possible for more frequent visits to such sites.Facebook in particular has the highest penetration of UK Internet users, the highest daily rateof visitors and the greatest number of average visits per user. It now has over 300 millionusers globally, according to the company (Mintel, 2009). This system of using socialnetworking sites is personal, creating exceptional brand exposure and it ensures targetingwhere brands only connect with their fans. This viral form of communication can be spreadfurther and wider than ever before and at a quicker rate online than offline. However online
11and offline brand exposure are just as important as each other as if the two do not connectwell, customers find it difficult to engage in the brand and soon lose interest. Cross mediacampaigns dramatically improve branding metrics due to the fact that they are engaged moreintensively with the message. The inclusion of online advertising to compliment a televisionadvertisement is proven to increase the brand awareness, brand favourability and likelihoodto purchase by 18% more than a television campaign alone (IAB Europe White paper, 2010).Many of today’s top marketers are already moving beyond the first wave of viral video,social networking, user-generated content, and mobile marketing campaigns, and are nowthinking outside of the box. They have realised that products are more like services thesedays where they are delivered digitally and on demand. In particular Anderson talks about theyounger generation who have grown up in an almost completely digital world and who live adigital lifestyle, making them an on-demand economy (Adamson, 2009). Traditional media isbecoming less able to reach all audiences and specific target groups such as youngerconsumers across the day. Placing more emphasis on digital within the media mix has shownsignificant impact on brand metrics and sales (IAB White paper, 2010). However, marketersneed to remember that success is not about understanding technology but its more aboutgetting to know your customers and then capitalising on that insight across the digitalplatforms to best suit your customers. Adamson talks about how it is the idea that drives thebranding rather than the technology stating,‘When you have a clearly defined brand idea, a strong point of view, the brandingopportunities become intuitive.’ (Adamson, 2009, p.69)So while it’s important to build a presence beyond what the brand sells and to have as manyrelevant media channels as possible, branding today is not about the media; the idea shouldbe well thought out prior to the marketing channels.
12The recession has also had a major impact on the environment where there has been adramatic change in consumer saving and spending where people are more conscious of wheretheir money goes. Other than seeking good value for money, Datamonitor identified keyissues impacting consumer behaviour in relation to the recession, which included a recorddecline in consumer confidence and a lack of trust in financial services institutions (DDB,2009). Therefore marketers have realised the importance of building trust between their brandand customer where there is an ever stronger desire to form a real relationship with theirbrands. The brand experience will help to regain trust and loyalty, which can be executedwell in the form of a character whereby they can form real relationships, connecting on amore personable level. Furthermore research from Dotz in the next chapter proves thatcustomers are more likely to trust the marketers if an endearing character and in particular, ananimal is used. Therefore characters have that ability to relate to customers in a unique waywhere the brand is given more acceptance and appeal.
13 CharactersThe History of charactersCharacters have been used in advertising for hundreds of years with the unified aim ofenticing customers into buying their products whilst personifying the brands they represent.Many brands began small but some managed to create such huge success with the use ofcharacters that they managed to dominate in their field where the characters have becomefamous icons. The first characters to come about were at the start of the twentieth centurywhen manufacturing inventions and innovations led to efficient mass production andpackaging of consumer products. Significant changes also occurred in the media at the sametime where magazines were introduced and therefore brands began to spread. One of the firstbrands to be adopted by a company was in 1920 by Quaker Oats. (Dotz, 2003) Thecompany’s initial trademark in 1877 was seen as too serious and did not appeal to consumers.Therefore the character, featuring amiable, plump, and rosy-cheeked man was introduced. Ittransformed the brand and has been so successful that the character is still in use today.As early modern-day advertising became more sophisticated, characters developed evenfurther where they emphasised their unique selling point in order to compete within themarket. The Michelin man is a particularly good example of highlighting the appeal ofadvertising characters in general. The Michelin Brothers introduced it in 1898 where itcontained an anthropomorphic design where a stack of car tires contained human limbs. Thischaracter proved the point that if you give object human features, it instantly becomes moreappealing and it has the ability to acquire a personality, which can enhance that emotionalconnection to customers. (Dotz, 2003)
14The advent of radio and television developed characters even more, developing more roundedpersonalities and character traits as well as story lines. It was also realised that well knowncartoon characters that were already in use were also a good source of characters to enhancebrands and gained a major marketing advantage over its competitors. This use of alreadyknown characters is still in use today such as the recent Wallace and Grommit campaign,which promotes npower and the characters demonstrate ways of saving energy in the house ina humorous way, which people can relate to and in a more enjoyable way.The Art of the Advertising Character delves into the history of characters used in advertisingand focuses on examples to highlight their success. One in particular was relevant as itconnected to my featured case study of the use of an animal in character branding. In 1941, acow was used to promote Borden milk-bottle caps. The cow was further developed so that itcontained human qualities such as a voice, a personality and it stood on two legs instead offour. The selection of a cow was an obvious association with milk but it contained so muchmore in terms of its symbolism. This human quality helped in relating it to motherhood andfertility as well as the nurturing relationship between humans and animals. Throughout thebook, Dotz backs up his case studies with research. This popular use of animal advertisingcharacters can be explained by studies that show that the mere presence of animals makeshumans seem more trustworthy. Therefore this theory would also apply to advertising wherecustomers are more likely to trust the marketers if an animal is used. Dotz’s reaction to this isalso relevant:‘Perhaps advertising characters appeal to us because they don’t connote the materialism that,in out cynicism, we often associate with their corporate owners.’ (Dotz, 2003, p.24)This statement is understandable as people would much rather be entertained than have toendure a boring advertisement stating the companies values. This use of entertainment as a
15way of enticing customers was seen in the past when characters were commonly to promoteproducts aimed at children. Particular focus was placed on food advertising with breakfastcereals, crisps and sweets being some of the most frequent products with branded cartooncharacters. These characters were used to communicate the fun elements of their products tochildren without giving information on the taste or nutritional content. UK cartoon charactershave now been banned in television advertisements, which are high in salt, sugar and fat dueto the fact that they brainwash children into buying products. This is similar to the use ofcharacters in price comparison sites, which are primarily for entertainment reasons and brandawareness rather than placing emphasis on the services available.Characters in Price Comparison sitesPrice comparison sites were first introduced over ten years ago and they have progressivelybecome more popular where they are now entering one of the UK’s fastest emerging internetmarkets and therefore are now worth more than a billion pounds a year (David, 2008). Theyhave dramatically increased their traffic in recent times, particularly during the recessionwhere people are consciously trying to cut back. According to Mintel, more than 24 millionpeople use one price comparison site each month (Sweney, 2010). Most comparison sitesearn money by charging suppliers a commission for each customer lead and as a result manyof these sites have invested lots of money towards major marketing campaigns in order toincrease brand awareness in the competitive marketplace. This is particularly important dueto the fact that competitors in the price comparison market all offer very similar services withno presence on the high street. According to Mintel, in 2006, about £35 million was spent onadvertising by price comparison websites with that figure now rising to £85 million (Sweney,2010). However, price comparison sites rely on visitors coming in from a search engine and
16so in order to survive, they need to focus on the delivery and therefore need to differentiatethemselves from the competition.Price comparison sites are an example of where brands must go beyond the rational benefitsand think of new ways to engage customers, which is why the use of characters is becomingmore frequent in this market. With little perceived difference, consumers shop forcommodities primarily on a low price basis and so characters are a useful way of creating thatunique selling point. Guy Kemplay, brand strategy director at market research firm TNSstates,“Increasingly, when there’s very little to choose from between products on the rational side,emotion simplifies choice and gives that connection to the consumer.” (Roberts, 2010)For that reason, brands are now seeking more of an emotional connection, which was acommon trait, used in the past. Many top insurance brands used to be structured around amemorable character with an affectionate personality. An example is the computer-animatednodding bulldog, Churchill, which was founded in 1989. His famous catchphrase, in responseto those who ask if he can save them money on insurance, is a cheerful "Oh yes," which issaid in a soft northern accent. The comparison site category then developed where its focuschanged to paying more attention to the revolutionary product than creating brand awareness,as the generic benefit was revolutionary at the time. The advertisements were generallyperceived to be the same with computer screens, cars with stars and price saving claims.Today price comparison sites have moved far beyond these services where more emphasis isput on entertaining the public in order to increase its brand awareness. A prime example isCompare the Market, which was launched in 2006 as a motor insurance price comparisonsite, however its success was only made apparent in 2009 when Aleksandr Orlov, themeerkat, was introduced. The first series of advertisements for Compare the Market were
17introduced in 2007 where they involved displaying a low-cost car insurance with vehiclesfalling from the sky and flashing prices. This type of advertising shared around 1,500television spots a day and so as a result, it became hugely unpopular and none of thecompanies stood out. Mark Vile believed in order to differentiate from the competition, it wasessential to introduce a lovable character. The creatives at VVCP developed the meerkatcharacter for the company, which has become even more important than what it sells. Beforethis character was introduced, the company was not well known at all but now it isconsidered the fourth most popular UK price comparison site. It ranks behind leader, MoneySupermarket with Confused second and GoCompare third. (Sweney, 2010) The characterconsists of an anthropomorphic Russian meerkat where the advertisements focus on hisfrustration as people keep on mistaking his website for car insurance because ‘market’ soundssimilar to ‘meerkat’ when spoken in a Russian accent. This character has become sosuccessful that it has transformed the price comparison market. Adamson states‘If the character of the brand is so well defined that it becomes real to people, it brings thebranding to life. (Adamson, 2009, P.125)That is exactly what the meerkat has achieved and is the reason for its success.
18Celebrity EndorsementsEndorser brands provide credibility to brands in the top of their market to help them expandout into new markets. Endorsements also come in the form of celebrities who become theface of a particular brand to gain more popularity over customers who want to own the sameproduct as someone famous.Today there is a growing reluctance to use celebrities in advertising as their private lives canaffect the brand. George Prest, the executive creative director of Delaney Lund Knox Warren,warns of the perpetual danger of celebrities becoming the brand. Hamish Pringle, on the otherhand talks about the importance of the selection process where it is crucial to choose acelebrity that shares the same brand values. Many celebrities have been dropped in recentyears and several brands are now opting for fictional characters or unknown people such asMorrison’s, the supermarket chain, which has recently opted for ‘real people’ over the use ofcelebrities (Tylee, 2010). The use of generic characters over well known people reflects anew trend in advertising toward using someone unknown or creating a character (Faulhaber,2009).Signing a celebrity is always a risk for advertisers whereas characters are much more reliablewhere their personalities and story lines can be created in order to appeal to a mass audience.According to CKC’s Urbick, he talks about how the use of a character can help to revitalisethe brand’s image and positioning. He also stresses the importance of its delivery where hestates “Any brand can create a character, but it depends on how it is executed.” (Costa, 2010).So the use of a character can create that differentiation that brands are desperately aiming forwhilst retaining its brand values.
19 The MethodologyAn investigation into the top four UK price comparison sites with brand characters took placeto see how they created brand awareness and competed against the competition within themarket. This included looking into both online and offline ways of promoting their brands.Therefore the media channels were analysed as well as the other varieties of ways brandsengaged with their customers. Furthermore the brand metrics were accessed to see whetherthere was a connection with the brand awareness rankings. The importance of the brand as adriver of business value and success is widely discussed however surprisingly few businessesactually use a system to allow them to link up with business performance measures (Munoz,2004). Therefore the survey enabled this analysis to be made particularly with the questionsasking who had joined a social networking site connected to the brand as well as who hadvisited the website.In order to measure the brand awareness of characters, a comparison chart of the fan base ofsocial networking sites was developed as well as a survey. A qualitative survey was used inorder to see exactly what characteristics people looked for in a character and its brandidentity. This approach was much more probing than would be the case with quantitativeresearch, and therefore the sample size was much smaller (Blythe, 2005). Finding the rightmix of respondents was also important in order to draw conclusions about the target marketas a whole. Therefore it was decided that the survey would contain a variety of age groups aseach is likely to have different habits such as the technology used and the frequency ofadvertisements seen. Therefore ten people from each age category were interviewed, makinga total of forty people. The survey technique consisted of a personal structured interview as itgave the researcher control over the process whereby the sample size and age categories were
20controlled as well as targeting individuals so that they were not influenced by others. Thisprocess had a high refusal rate but it was the most reliable for this study and was a non biasedapproach where people were confronted face-to-face and did not have the opportunity to lookup information online.The survey was piloted once in order to see if there were problems with the questions. It isuseful to get as much information as possible from these interviews without the public losinginterest and so a total of ten questions were asked (please see the attached survey in theappendix). The questions were structured around brand recognition to see just how successfulthe brands have been at creating associations between the brand name and character used.The use of "aided recall" was used to measure the extent to which a brand name isremembered when the actual brand name is prompted so that it was possible to see how manypeople could make the connection between the brand name and character. It was alsoimportant to access whether people were more successful at connecting the brand name to thecharacter or whether it was easier to make that brand association when prompted with animage of the character. In terms of brand exposure, companies want to look for high levels ofunaided recall in relation to their competitors and so before handing out the survey, thefollowing question was asked: ‘Can you name any price comparison sites.’ This question wasnot included in the actual survey as some names were displayed on it and therefore theywould have had the ability to copy from it, however it will be useful for my findings.Overall a full analysis of the top four UK Price Comparison sites were taken to see how eachone used its character in order to increase the brand’s awareness. The media channels andbrand metrics were also taken into account to see if that had a direct effect to the success ofthe brand. The main focus was on the meerkat in Compare the market, which has gone farbeyond its initial services and in turn become a marketing phenomenon.
21 Results and DiscussionBrand MetricsPopular advertisements have the ability to go viral where the public can discuss the brandboth online and offline, spreading it across a wide variety of channels but the underlyingissue is whether the product or service actually shows an increase in sales. In order to see ifbrand metrics link up to the brand awareness, here is a table rating the top four UK pricecomparison sites in terms of their position in the market compared to the results undertakenfrom the survey on brand awareness (please see Appendix for the survey):Figure 1 (BGL, 2009)Price Comparison sites Position within the market Position in terms of brand awarenessCompare the Market 4 1Go Compare 3 2Confused 2 3Money Supermarket 1 4As you can see these results are very surprising as they appear to be positioned in theopposite order confirming that whilst the use of a character may boost brand awarenesssignificantly, it does not necessarily mean that more people will use its services. This meansthat other factors such as the offers available also have an impact. As well as having numberone position in the market, Money Supermarket also has the highest rankings on Google. Themain reason behind this success is that it is considered an authority by Google where lots of
22PR is associated with the brand and it is also promoted widely through all the respectedwebsites, which shows that the brand’s values are also a factor in market ratings. (Nixon,2010)It was also discovered from the results that the largest group involved in joining socialnetworking sites was the youngest age category, 15-24. However, this same age group onlyhad a very small percentage of people who actually visited any of the price comparison sites.Whereas in contrast, the group that ranked the highest for using these websites was the agegroup, 45-64, which also had a very low percentage who were linked up to the socialnetworking sites. This evidence links up to the literature review whereby Anderson talksabout the younger generation living a digital lifestyle and so it is clearly important to placemore emphasis on digital within the media mix when targeting this particular group ofindividuals. This shows the importance of knowing your audience where brand awarenessand marketing channels should be chosen depending on the target group. However it seemsthat all four of these price comparison sites are more interested in creating as much brandexposure as possible where they are not taking the audience into full account. Overall thesefindings clearly show that the brand awareness does not directly link to the market share.Brand associations within the nameThere are two types of awareness: spontaneous, which measures the percentage of peoplewho spontaneously mention a particular brand when asked to name brands in a certaincategory; and prompted, which measures the percentage of people who recognise a brandfrom a particular category when shown a list. Both the spontaneous and promptedmeasurement was used. For the spontaneous method, the following question was asked:
23‘Can you name any price comparison sites?’The top four comparison sites featured a great deal as seen in figure 2, which confirms thatbrand awareness connects to the success of the brand:Figure 2 Compare the Market GoCompare MoneySupermarket Confused Other
24Figure 3 displays the results for the prompted method where the public were asked to connectthe brand name with the character as well as connect the character image and name of thecharacter:Figure 3 120 100 Brand and character 80 association 60 Character image recognition 40 Character name recognition 20 0 Compare the Go Compare Money Confused Market SupermarketAs you can see from the survey results in figure 3, Compare the Market is by far the mostrecognised brand out of the top four UK Price Comparison sites. This is because the meerkatstates in every advertisement that there has been a misunderstanding between Compare theMarket and Compare the Meerkat and so this constant reminder of the brand name makes usremember it. This is also due to its ubiquitous nature of this brand, which now seems to be animportant trait in the delivery of brands today. It was, however surprising to see that thecharacter name was only known by 15% whereas, Money Supermarket, which scored thelowest brand and character recognition, had the highest amount of people that knew thecharacter name. This is due to the fact that this character is a famous comedian and actor andso many people were aware of him, despite being unable to make the connection. The
25character name recognition was higher than the brand and character association as well as thehighest for all the characters involved, which shows that this character has a competitiveadvantage over its rivals due to its celebrity status.The next trend the graphs show is the character image recognition is higher than the brandand character association, which means more people were familiar with the brand whenshown a picture of the character than when they were asked to connect the brand name withthe character used. This gives evidence that the having a memorable character helps towardsremembering a brand and therefore is a highly successful way of creating brand awareness.The Marketing strategy of Compare The MarketAs confirmed by the survey results that Compare the Market is the most recognised brand,the focus will now be on Compare the Market, looking closely at the main media channelsused and the important features of the character that make it memorable and set itself apartfrom other characters.The character was introduced in 2009 and as you can see in figure 4, there has been adramatic rise in sales and customer numbers since the advertisements were released.Figure 4 2009/10 2008/09Pre tax profit £62 million £54 millionProfit growth 16 % 24%Number of customers 3.5 million 2.7 million
26The success of the meerkat character in Compare the Market is all down to its marketingstrategy, which has significantly increased its brand awareness and in turn, has made theinsurance market interesting. This market has never been considered particularly engaging toconsumers and so in order to capture the public’s attention, the company has releasedadvertisements that have nothing to do with insurance and instead has focused on buildingbrand awareness. It is more of a form of entertainment where the advertisements are laid outas a three part trilogy so that they are reminiscent of a film trailer. It is very realistic wherethere are film reviews and the opportunity of meeting the cast. There are also a series ofdocumentary style advertisements with new stories and characters to keep it fresh. This issuccessful as it is a unique concept, which keeps customers on edge, waiting in anticipationto see the next part of the story and therefore an ongoing brand engagement is sustained.Although these advertisements do not directly link with insurance, it has proven to be a muchbetter way of advertising where the character becomes a shortcut reference to the brand andoverall more interesting than the brand itself.In terms of the website, there are two separate sections to the official website containing ablog from Meerkovo village as well as a section where you can compare meerkats. This isparticularly clever as it engages the customer as well as showing the creatives what sort ofmeerkats are in demand by the general public so that new characters in the advertisementscan be introduced.
27The use of social media has been key to the success of the Compare the market campaign.From their website, you are able to link directly to Facebook and Twitter from the home pageas well as view and download all the advertisements and share them via these sites. Twitter inparticular is proving to be a recent success in building brands where people are able todiscuss brands, products and services in real time. (Mortimer, 2009) It can be used in avariety of ways depending on the needs of the company. It can be used to send outpromotional offers, to build the brand’s voice or as a way of dealing with customer servicequeries. Compare the Market uses it for brand awareness where Aleksandr Orlov’sgrammatically incorrect English tweets are used to give life to the meerkat beyond thetelevision advertisements. This is successful as it creates an ongoing engagement between thebrand and customers and it is a useful way of not bothering those who are not interested inthe brand.This accessibility has enabled maximum brand engagement and the potential for the brand togo viral. These advertisements are all on Youtube, which gives consumers the option to viewthem when they want and also gives them the potential to spread internationally. The meerkatis connected to all the most popular UK social media sites, giving it full brand exposure andthe fact that it is linked up with all the social networking sites, makes it more human andeasier to engage with. However as stated before, the digital emphasis engages mostlyyounger people who are less likely to use the price comparison sites and so it is successful increating a strong brand presence but less so at boosting profits.The CompetitionThe Times Online states that the Compare the Market site increased its market share of UKinsurance comparison site visits by 76 percent has driven up traffic to the website by 83 percent since the campaign was launched January (Judge, 2009). At the same time Money
28Supermarket lost 25.2 percent of visits, Confused dropped five percent and GoCompare lost31.8% (Andrews, 2009).The meerkat has since become a catalyst for a significant change in advertising in the pricecomparison market where every competitor of Compare the Market has now radicallychanged their advertising where they have had to re-evaluate their strategies in a bid to winback market share. The chief executive of Confused has stated ‘The meerkat has raised thebar.’ (Ramsay, 2009) In reaction to this they have recently introduced a new brand charactercalled Cara. Money Supermarket launched a fourteen million pound advertising campaignfeaturing Dragons’ Den entrepreneur, Peter Jones. However these advertisements were soonreplaced with a character in order to compete. Like the meerkat, the new campaign iscentered around humour with the use of the actor and comedian, Omid Djalili, who plays anIranian character. Another comparison site competing directly with Compare the Market isGo Compare who in an attempt to regain market share, responded with the launch of acampaign featuring an opera singer called Gio Compario, which cost twenty-one millionpounds. Seeing as the top four price comparison sites have all chosen characters to promotetheir brands confirms their success in building brand awareness.In order to see what these sites have done to compete, a table (figure 5) has been produced tomake that comparison displaying the media channels used and other such means as well asthe amount of fans they have all accumulated as a result.
29 Figure 5PRICE SOCIAL WEBSITE TELEVISION RADIO VISUALS GAMES AND OTHERCOMPARISON MEDIA MERCHANDISESITES AND (more thanMARKET SHARE 1000 fans)COMPARE THEMARKET (11%)GO COMPARE(15%)MONEY (38%)SUPERMARKETCONFUSED (16%)
30The fact that the top four comparison sites all contain the main social networking sites showhow this is an essential element for brands these days. As all the characters are used forentertainment purposes, each one offers a variety of ways to engage with the brand fromgames to applications and merchandise. This table (Figure 5) shows the extent to which thetop brands in the price comparison sector are going to and the abundance of media channelsthey are using in order to compete. It also shows how the services on offer are no longer ofmuch importance and instead demonstrates how today’s marketers are going beyondtraditional branding techniques by offering such a large variety of online and offlinemeasures to ensure ultimate brand exposure.From the survey, 75% claimed to have seen these advertisements the most on television withthe internet behind on 20% with the largest age group being 15-24. This confirms my initialresearch from the IAB White paper about the importance of placing more emphasis on digitalwithin the media mix as it has clearly shown a big impact on brand metrics, particularlyamongst the younger age group who spend more time online these days than in the past.The other findings I sourced from the survey consisted of what aspects of the character stoodout to the public. Here are the characteristics, which kept on featuring, which I will look at indepth:
31 The most appealing character characteristics The accent The humour The catchy tune/phrase The human qualities OtherThe Human characteristicsThis particular characteristic is only relevant for the meerkat as it is the only featured animalout of the four characters. The meerket has physical human attributes where it walks on allfours, wears clothes and talks. These human characteristics have given the character theopportunity to do more in order to increase the brand awareness and for that reason, the brandhas gone far beyond its main marketing channel. As seen in the research by Dotz, by givingan animal human characteristics, it instantly becomes more appealing where it is able to gaina personality, creating more of an emotional connection to customers.The meerkat has been given the name, Aleksandr Orlov where he is treated like a physicalbeing with a celebrity status. Podcasts have been produced featuring Orlov interviewingfamous people as well as interviews on both the Daybreak and the Sun newspaper. He is also
32the first character to have its own Twitter and Linked in account and to release anautobiography, which is entitled ‘A Simple’s Life.’ A record company has even expressed aninterest in releasing a single featuring the meerkat as well as a campaign created to add thecatchphrase, ‘simples’ to the dictionary (Gibbons, 2009). The fact that the meerkat is treatedlike an actual person makes engaging with it more accessible and so consumers are able tointeract with the brand in a large variety of ways. This backs up Adamson’s quote about howthe branding is brought to life if the character becomes real to people.Offline measures have also played a part in the brand awareness such as the creation of anapplication for the i-phone where well-known phrases by Orlov can be downloaded.Hundreds of meerkat merchandise now also exists from meerkat electronic games to meerkatcuddly toys where they were selling at Harrods over the 2010 Christmas period. Orlov is alsothe first ever character to produce an autobiography; this book focuses on the history ofAleksandr Orlov from his ancestors to his current life in charge of meerkat comparison.Thisis an example of how marketers are thinking out of the box in order to catch customers’attention and to stand out from the competition where the brand experiences are becomingeven more important than what is being sold.These marketing methods have all shown a dramatic rise in brand awareness where thecharacter has had so much impact that there has been an increased interest in keeping theseanimals as pets. The BBC Look North had to produce a news report encouraging people notto purchase meerkats as pets in reaction to this and so London Zoo are now promoting anadoption scheme, which has proven popular (Nettleton, 2009). Furthermore there has been asignificant increase in visitors to the meerkat section of the zoo. (Wilkes, 2010) The zoo aretaking advantage of this sudden popularity in meerkats that they have recently created ‘TheMeerkat Experience’ where the public buy a voucher that entitles you to a meerkat
33experience day in which they have the opportunity to interact with the meerkats inside thecage and are also given the just to feed them. In reaction to the huge popularity of theseanimals, the film entitled, ‘The Meerkats,’ narrated by Paul Newman was released in 2009.Lastly the Aleksandr Orlov autobiography has sold more than 130,000 copies, topping theBookseller list and the cuddly was proven much popular than they sold a many more than hadexpected, which prompted the owner of Harrods, Mohamed Al Fayed, to give the entire stockto childrens charities (Owen, 2010).The Accent and tone of voiceResearch from the Central Office of Information and the Radio Advertising Bureau revealsthat the effectiveness of advertising can be improved depending on the accents it uses,creating more of an engagement between a brand and its customers. The research confirmedthat local accents could do just that whereby they are associated with real, ordinary peopleand seem to be more effective at conveying credible real-life experiences. The perceptions ofaccents have changed in the last fifty years where the 20th century ‘Received Pronunciation’(RP) accent is no longer generally accepted as the accent of authority. Social change as wellas the popularity of celebrities, has created a softer modern day RP (Government ContractingOpportunities, 2009). An example is the use of the cockney accent for the use of the characterin the American price comparison site, Geico, which consists of an anthropomorphic gecko.In current advertisements, the gecko’s accent is more working-class in order to further“humanize” him.The meerkat character in the Compare the Market advertisements was inspired by Geico interms of its humour with the use of accents and pronunciation. His voice is supplied by
34Simon Greenall, who played Alan Partridge’s friend, Michael, in I’m Alan Partridge. Hespeaks in a Russian accent, mispronunciating certain words. Both of these advertisingstrategies use accents to create humour, proving that this strategy can successfully imprint abrand into the mind of the consumer. The meerkat’s accent also gives the character lots ofcharm which leads to people talking about the character in an enthusiastic way. This viralform of discussion is more successful than relying on the jingle getting stuck in your head orwith the use of an annoying character that sparks controversy.The use of this Russian accent has also created controversy where many Eastern Europeans inparticular have claimed the advertisements to be offensive. In a letter by the AdvertisingStandards Authority in response to a complaint referring to the racist associations of theadvert, it stated "Whatever impact the mild stereotyping of the eastern European accent has isundercut by the fact that it is a cartoon rather than a live actor. As such we do not feel that thecontent of the commercial is likely to provoke widespread offence." (Jones, 2009) Thereforeit seems that the cartoon status means this issue cannot be taken seriously but if it was a realperson, the case would probably be different. This relates to the celebrity endorsement in theliterature review, which talks about how celebrities can affect a brand negatively whereas acharacter can be controlled and is much less likely to misrepresent the brand. In anotherresponse to a complaint, they stated that characters that are supplied with an accent are“elevated” to the status of “funny” and highly saleable creatures (Lyux, 2010). This is similarto the study made by Dotz where he talked about how the use of animals changes the deliverywhere mocking a foreign accent is less insulting than a human doing the same. Whencompleting the survey, 25 % were a fan of the character due to its accent and so thischaracteristic clearly plays an important role in the humour and shows it would not be assuccessful without this key element.
35The accent is central to all of the four characters. Omid Djaili, who originally has a Britishaccent, puts on an Iranian accent in order to highlight the difference between cultures wherehe berates the British for their inability to haggle and compares it to the people in the MiddleEast where it is part of their culture. It is particularly funny how he leads the viewer intothinking he has an Iranian accent and then he suddenly switches by impersonating the Britishaccent by saying certain words with a cockney accent. David Osborne, Money Supermarket’smarketing director, said:‘Omid plays on the differences between British and Middle Eastern cultures as part of hiscomedy routine so using him as a figurehead for this campaign really helps highlight themessage we want to deliver’ (Blake, 2010).Therefore the use of this character is well thought out and its humour is executed well, whichis the reason why it delivers such successful results.Gio Compario, the opera singer character, consists of an Italian accent, which is well suitedas opera originated in Renaissance Italy and now the country is extremely famous for this artform. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery,and costumes as well as dance. Therefore it is well suited as words can be incorporated intothe song to highlight the insurance deals available and so the added accent adds to thehumour. The dramatic opera-like song is loud and over the top, which is ideal as it is verymemorable.Cara in Confused.com consists of a very warm, northern accent, which highlights my pointabout how people engage more with local accents. The use of a woman is also more engagingwhere her soft intonation is very appealing with mother-like qualities, which is more trusting.
36With the most recent advertisements, she is now singing with the voice of the West End star,Louise Dearm (Parsons, 2010). This use of a celebrity is once again employed where theadvertisement is turned into more of a form of entertainment than promoting insurance itself.Overall the tone of voice of each character is light hearted, which works well as it makes theserious topic of insurance more appealing. It is a chore to sort out insurance and so thesecharacters offer an enjoyment factor, which people prefer to being pitched.The HumourHumorous advertising is the most difficult to create successfully due to its subjective nature.However if the right balance is created, humour can evoke an emotional response and in turnbecome very memorable. From my survey, the meerkat was by far the most appealingcharacter with the majority of people using the humour as their primary reason. With theinflux of Eastern Europeans to England, we very much live in a multicultural society wheremany can relate to the difference between nationalities and the confusion that comes with it.Therefore the meerkat, with its Russian accent and mispronunciations is very warming.In GoCompare, the look of the character is funny in itself. It consists of an overweight,clumsy looking opera singer with a funny looking moustache where the whole advert is overthe top with humorous song lyrics and exaggerated dance moves. It is also funny in the waythat it starts with an everyday setting and then the whole room bursts out into song and dancein quite an unexpected manner.Money Supermarket creates humour with the use of the comedian, Omid Djaili where hecompares in a humorous way the differences between the British and the middle East. People
37can easily relate to this as it is accurate as to what British people are generally like in terms oftheir reserved attitude as confirmed by research conducted for money Supermarket that showsthat whilst, as a nation we hate paying more than we have to, just 10% of us regularly ask fora better deal when we make a purchase. Therefore it appeals to a mass audience with ahumorous twist on the British way of life.
38Chapter 5- The ConclusionCharacters have clearly come a long way since they were first used in advertising.Advancements in digital technology have played a major role in their development fromcharacters, which were primarily seen in printed form to those with distinctive personalities.It is now essential to be connected to all the main social networking sites as well as a widerange of media channels in order to engage to the full potential with customers and tocompete in the market. This ongoing engagement is evidently an important factor ofmaintaining a brands’ loyalty with customers. Furthermore this has given marketers more ofan insight into their customers’ thoughts and needs. However at the same time, brands todayseem to be placing more emphasis on the media channels than what is being sold and socreating ultimate brand exposure seems to be of higher importance.While the abundance of marketing channels both online and offline are vital to increase brandawareness, it is the delivery of the character in terms of its image and personality, which areof utmost importance. Without good management, the character can fail to communicate theright message and in turn give the brand a bad name. Those that produce the best results areadaptable to the public’s needs so that they evolve at the same rate as the markets andtechnological improvements. Getting to know customers first so that the relevant channelscan be sought is an important trait in branding. However these case studies demonstrate howbrands are now using every possible channel in order to maximise the brand exposure to itsfull capacity.It is also evident that if managed well, a character can help a brand to stand out from thecompetition, particularly in the price comparison market. This statement can be backed up bythe research collected from the survey where the image recognition was higher than the brandand association for all four characters. This market is highly competitive due to the fact that
39they have increased in popularity in recent years and as a result there are so many availablewith a large percentage offering the same services. Characters have become more popular incommodity selling where marketers have realised the importance of offering unique ways ofdifferentiating their brands rather than cutting prices. Characters are therefore used to createthat distinct brand voice, which in turn helps the brand to stand out.Today’s customers are more demanding in their expectations of what their brands shoulddeliver and so this has led to even more competition between rivals where brands are creatingeven more brand experiences. Marketers are thinking out of the box and developing uniqueways of creating brand awareness. Compare the Market is a key example where it has gonefar beyond selling services and is an example of how brand experiences and creating brandawareness are more important than what is being sold.As seen in the case studies, characters today are used to entertain in order to increase brandawareness, which seems to be a developing trend where the rational forms of selling productsare becoming less frequent. The changing needs of the public have transformed the waybrands relate to people where an emotional connection within a niche target audience isbecoming more of a featured trait and where trust and loyalty play key factors. However, inthe price comparison market, it is difficult to try and relate emotionally to the commoditisedservices it offers. Therefore the products and services on offer are less important where thecharacters take over where their main aim is to create brand exposure through entertainment.The characters also appeal to such a large age group that very few of the younger generationdo not actually use price comparison websites. This means that the brand metrics are notdirectly linked to the popularity of a character. So while it is clear to see that characters aresuccessful tools at increasing brand awareness, they do not have the power to completely
40alter the customers’ behaviour where the services on offer and other factors play an evenmore important part.
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47The Appendix 1. Please state your age and gender: 15-24 25-44 45-64 64+ Male Female 2. Do you know which characters are used in the following price comparison sites? Compare the Market ......................................... Go Compare ......................................... Money Supermarket ......................................... Confused .......................................... 3. Now look at the pictures of these four characters (please turn over to see the images). Which characters do you now recognise? Image 1 Image 2 Image 3 Image 4 4. Do you know any of their names? 1...................................... 2...................................... 3...................................... 4...................................... 5. Which character have you seen the most of? ......................................................................................................... 6. Where have you mainly come across this character? Television Internet Radio Other
48 7. Which character appeals to you the most? ........................................................................................................... 8. State the reason The accent The humour The catchy tune/catch phrase The human qualities Other (Please state)..................................................................... 9. Have you joined any social networking groups connected to these price comparison sites? And if so, which one? ............................................................................................................. 10. Have you visited any of these price comparison websites? And if so, which one? ................................................................................................................ffddddddd