Go Compare goes back to what made it famous

I was intrigued by reports here that insurance comparison site Go Compare has brought back its opera singing spokesperson, Gio Compario, in a series of ads to promote cheaper energy suppliers and insurance  Having played a key role in creating and building the brand, Gio had taken a back seat role from early 2013 onwards. 

So, why have Go Compare gone back to Gio? 

1. The power of brand properties

The Gio Compario character first hit the TV screen back in August 2009 and was used in a series of ads over the next three years. The opera singer sang about how the brand could save you money on your insurance, with the brand name an integral part of the song, being mentioned eight times in 40 seconds. The Gio campaign was irritating but quickly proved to be effective. "The campaign helped consolidate our leading position and boosted brand awareness by 450% in the 2nd half of 2009," said founder and CEO Hayley Parsons here, when announcing 2009 turnover up 53%.

Gio Compario created distinctive "memory structure" for the brand. This helped the brand be top of mind at the moment of truth when people were thinking what to type into Google when looking for insurance. 

2. Forgetting what made you famous

Go Compare started to forget what made them famous in 2012 following the appointment of a new agency, Dare. First, they literally tried to kill off the character in series of ads where celebrities tried to murder him. They also put up self-vandalised posters. The idea here was for the brand to poke fun at itself, as explained here by the head of marketing Nick Hall: "We know a lot of people find the character irritating and this is us saying 'we get it'." The problem here was that the character  had become the focus of the campaign, rather than a property to build the brand and business. Check out the poster below. The only message is about a new ad campaign and an in-joke about Gio's unpopularity.

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Gio's role was reduced even further in 2013 following another change of agency, this time to Fold 7. The new campaign tried to create a new property in the form of an imaginary town called, wait for it, LlandofsavingmoneyandgettingtherightdealgogoGocompare.* Gio had a minor role in the new ad, driving the bus to this new land of savings. And to make it really clear that the brand was trying to ditch its memory structure, when Gio starts to hum the brand's theme tune in the ad, he is told to shut up!

This campaign was much more complex than the original, with the focus seeming to me to be on bringing to life this imaginary land of savings. However, my guess is that the main role of communication for comparison sites is to create and reinforce memory structure linked to the URL.

*For non-UK readers, this is making fun of long Welsh town names which can look and sound a bit like this

3. Refreshing what made you famous

Go Compare seem to agree that they missed in a trick in ditching Gio Compario, with the launch of the new campaign starring him this week. My guess is that the marketing team went through the frustration of focus groups on the LlandofsavingmoneyandgettingtherightdealgogoGocompare campaign where consumers played back, or probably sang back, the brand theme tune and the Gio character and recalled little of the newer, more complex campaign.

I think the brand team have done a good job of refreshing the campaign. The new ad borrows the style of the TV show "Britain's Got Talent", which was won twice by opera singers. In a complete about-turn, the brand snows Gio being applauded by the audience, as he sings about the millions of pounds Go Compare has saved the nation.

It was interesting to read that the brand also went back to what made it famous in terms of creative team. Fold 7 have gone, replaced by freelance Chris and Si├ón Wilkins who created the first Gio Compario ad for the brand in 2009. 

 

In conclusion, the Go Compare story shows the power of a distinctive brand property, but also the problem of companies not fully appreciating this power and being seduced by novelty. It shows how these changes of brand property are often linked to a change in creative team. At least in this case the company has eventually gone back to what made it famous.

We recommend putting in place a process we call IcAT, for Iconic Asset Tracking, to properly measure brand properties and make decisions on ditching them based on data, not judgement. An example of results on a pilot study we did on Magnum and ice cream are shown below. More on this approach here.

And for a full set of Gio Compario ads, you can go compare them here!

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