The Generation Game has returned, the cuddly toy is back !
Marketers are often accused of copying other great ideas, but I am somewhat surprised, to put it mildly, that in the age of the Internet of Things, given advances in personal computing and mobile telephony changing our buying habits, and in the age of multi-screening omni channel digital solutions that, giving away cuddly toys is THE great marketing idea of 2015!
I excuse from this criticism the Meerkats, that is a customer journey par excellence, I, in fact, own two Meerkats myself. That whole concept and execution from Compare the Market is clearly wonderful from the ‘wacky’ delivery updates that really engage – but serve the purpose of filling the 3 month qualifying void to minimise calls – to the way it now is the brand itself.
It is interesting that Compare the Market have stopped the TV ads that were based on their brand name and have extended the Meerkat experience into the new Orange Wednesdays.
It is perhaps obvious that Confused, the aggregator suffering most due to some great ads from Meerkat and Go Compare, have attempted a similar tactic – but is giving away a Brian robot toy enough? it’s not very warm and cuddly, unless you are a big Short Circuit fan.
The recent advertising more than heavily features the robot as the hero, leaving the price saving message as a secondary, clearly this must be a planned strategy and it does mirror the Meerkat strategy to an extent. The Facebook page is strangely lacking in emotional resonance but does make some play of the 80s retro styling of Brian.
So in the spirit of imitation Churchill Insurance is now giving away a cuddly version of Churchill. It makes a heavy play on the website but is less prominent on Facebook but the twitter account @churchillthedog makes good use of the offer using topicality and the offer itself to engage followers.
Listening to the radio this weekend it is also central to the radio ads for the brand.
I used to work on the Churchill brand in the 90’s and we always used to have the nodding dog available, but in its new guise it is much more engaging. The idea of “Challenge Churchill” is still at the heart of brand though, so its less remote/disconnected than Brian, for Confused, in my view.
So apart from Insurance is there any other evidence … well yes, in the unlikely guise of Sofa Works and Neil their cuddly sloth.
Ubiquitous due to Gogglebox bumpers and idents, it’s a natural step I think, and it is clearly a nice added value giveaway that is not designed as a convincer – a GBP 10 toy off a GBP 150 car insurance policy is pertinent – a soft toy on a GBP 500 sofa? well it’s a nice gift and one that engages you with the brand nicely I think, but it’s not going to give you competitive advantage per se.
So why follow this path?
- Churchill have been using the Dog since the company was formed, it is the Brand after all, and it is a natural step to bring it to life in consumers homes – as a character it has always had that ‘voice’. Like Confused.Com the Churchill You Tube Channel is worth clicking through to as it demonstrates very impressive engagement, and it’s funny too. This builds on their wry humour and as a natural step, does not feel forced in any way.
- For Confused it does feel a little forced and they may be relying on gimmickry and facilitating the advertising itself. Who knows if the idea was mooted initially? My sense is that offering the free robot straight away would have seemed a straightforward copy and it may have been less successful, building up demand is a nice ploy, one followed after all by Apple. That said, the You Tube Channel is looking very clever.
- Neil is a just a great character, one I like, so I get that – I would imagine Sofa Works saw this as a campaign not a toy giveaway initially, but the great linking voiceover by Craig Cash perfectly embodies the character in speed of delivery … it really adds something.
In short these brands are seeking to engage emotionally rather than rationally, in the fiercely competitive world of insurance where the rational price decision is the norm this makes a huge amount of sense, as a small increase in loyalty gives a clear financial benefit to the brand. A cautionary tale though – character based advertising can be dangerous .. remember Little Tiny Bill … I used to love this, I thought it had real legs … pun intended !! but it failed, maybe it was because you couldn’t easily create a character in real form, who knows? A cuddly Sainsbury’s Bank model .. maybe that is yet to come !
Is it sustainable?
I think this is a type of offer that has some way to go yet, the success of the Meerkats is unrivalled and Compare the Market have proven the model for Brand engagement with it. Its natural to admire this and fast followers in the category, as I have highlighted here, will be successful. the chance of long term brand engagement has to be higher with this type of giveaway than with a cash offer or a voucher, those are too quickly realised in my view. How long it remains relevant for is anyone’s guess, but the Generation Game lasted 23 years over two runs, each of more than 10 years, so watch out for more conveyor belts and see if you can spot the Cuddly Toys !
Let me know if you spot any more cuddly toy giveaways, me? well I’m off to get a Parker Pen from a Life Assurer for the Over 50’s, I must be getting old !!
11 May 2015