Aleksander the meerkat shows how entertainment can sell

Marketing magazine named VCCP creative agency of 2009, with their most famous campaign of the year being the creation of Aleksander the meerkat for shopping comparison site Compare the Market. This campaign is a rare example of using entertainment to sell AND create online buzz. Most attempts at creating viral advertising end up being what we call "sponsored entertainment": funny films paid for by the brand.

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[For non-UK readers, Aleksander is a toy meerkat who tells people to avoid the mistake of going to comparethemeerkat.com if they want to get cheap insurance. You can see an ad here, or click below if you are on the blog].

Here's why I like this:

1. Boosting the bottom line: the results from the Aleksander campaign are pretty amazing: 400% increase in web traffic and 73% decrease in cost-per-acqisition. Here's what I think has worked well:

2. Really understanding growth drivers: Aleksander really helps sell more stuff (SMS). His whole job is to hammer into your brain the domain name comparethemarket.com. By helping people remember this and type it into Google directly, it helps dramatically drive down cost. The company doesn't have to pay for people searching for comparison services and then clicking on pay-per-click links.

3. A character with legs: not physically, but in marketing terms. The agency have created a character that manages to add some emotional "sizzle" to what is a pretty dull category. He really has appeal, and so generates free marketing for the brand. Aleksander's Facebook page has over 600,000 bloody friends! And hundreds of people bother to comment on his posts. Amazing. Also, there is a whole website for people who for fun do type in comparethemeerkat.com ! And the ad has almost 250,000 views on YouTube, four times more than another comparison site using entertainment (of a sort) to sell: GoCompare.com

In conclusion, entertaining people can work for your brand, provided this is focused single-mindely on selling more stuff. Don't get seduced by trying to "add emotional appeal" to your brand in this way. This is a means to end, not an end in itself.

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