Alanis Morissette knows how to write a tune. In 1996 she released ‘ironic’, and whilst it’s a solid slice of pop gold, it is lacking in irony.
Bad luck? It’s got lots of that, like the old man who turned ninety-eight, won the lottery and then died before he was able to spend his winnings.
Then there’s the poor soul who had a black fly in their Chardonnay – hardly ironic, but it sure sucks.
You see, no matter how well Morissette belts it out, ‘rain on your wedding day’ will never be ironic – it’s just rotten luck.
Unfortunately, twenty-four years since Alanis Morrissette got all in a muddle, a certain insurance comparison site has gone and done it again.
Somewhat upset at playing second-fiddle to a family of meerkats and a loveable salt-of-the-earth opera singer, Confused.com has launched its new ad campaign.
On its website, the brand proudly announces, “our latest TV ad puts the actress Rhiannon Harper Rafferty in the driving seat, as she witnesses some of life’s little confusions.
“Like when you try and avoid someone in the street and end up doing the awkward dance. When you think someone is waving at you, but they’re not.”
According to Marketing Week, this is all part of a campaign that shifts the brand’s focus from confusion centred on politics and culture to the “little confusions of everyday life”.
Are you confused, Confused.com?
The problem is, awkwardly shuffling around someone in the street isn’t confusing, it’s just awkward.
The comparison brand’s previous campaign featured Irish actor, Timothy Murphy who delivered his ‘don’t be confused, be Confused.com’ catch-phrase like it was a threat.
The new campaign is, if nothing else, less fear inducing. But will it work?
Assuming that the campaign’s ultimate aim is to convince customers to use Confused.com in favour of its competitors, I think we have a problem.
Communication, at a simple level, works in three stages:
- You have to get the audience’s attention
- You have to communicate what you want
- You have to convince the audience to act
Dave Trott wonderfully explains this using the following example:
- You fancy a cup of tea, so you call your spouse’s name to get their attention
- If you are heard, you successfully register on their radar and can ask them for a cup of tea
- When they inevitably question why they should make you a cup of tea, you trade that you’ll take the bins out in return
Assuming all three steps are delivered, you can bank on quenching your thirst. On the other hand, regardless of how convincing your pitch is, if you fail to register on the recipient’s radar, it’s just lost noise.
Most advertising fails to achieve all of these steps. In fact, most advertising fails because it can’t achieve step one.
This can be for many reasons. One of the most common is that organisations get so tied up in refining their messaging for steps two and three that they forget to plan step one.
A wonderful example of this working the other way around was when Cadbury’s Head of Marketing managed to convince his firm to ignore all of the audience testing and launch a video of a gorilla playing the drums.
Arguably, the drumming gorilla wholeheartedly ignored steps two and three, but it nailed step one and probably shifted a lot of chocolate bars as a result.
Confused.com finds itself in the unenviable position of going up against two of the most memorable advertising campaigns in modern marketing; Compare the Market’s meerkats and Go Compare’s opera singer.
Both campaigns induce different levels of rage in audiences subjected to them, but it’s hard to deny, they gain attention.
The fact is, it’s very hard not to notice a portly opera singer from Wales singing about insurance at you.
Cut to Timothy Murphy cruising down the highway in a classic Mercedes, no matter how clear his communication and how convincing his pitch, unless he starts warbling in falsetto or donning a pink mankini, it’s unlikely to register on most peoples’ radars.
Comparing the comparers
The sad truth is that Confused.com’s fiddly advertising isn’t making a dent in Compare the Market’s and Go Compare’s in-your-face approach:
Its latest offering is just as placid, just as fiddly and just as unlikely to gain any real attention from audiences as its previous efforts.
How to stop the confusion?
If Confused.com truly wants to catch up with the market leaders, it needs to be smart about its approach. This needs to begin by rejecting tired advertising campaigns that attempt to be charming but end up being twee.
When you’re the market leader (ie. Compare the Market), you can focus your marketing campaigns on one thing; growing your market.
When you’re not the market leader (ie. Confused.com), you need to focus on growing your share of the existing market.
With its recent campaigns, Confused.com’s message boils down to one thing; avoid confusion by using a comparison site.
Yes, they are suggesting that you use their comparison site, but in reality, people will use the site they actually remember when they get around to it – hence the success of Compare the Market and Go Compare’s campaigns.
The insurance comparison websites have done a great deal of good in enabling customers to manage the frustrating process of purchasing insurance products. The industry has been borne out of innovation.
Perhaps now is the time that Confused.com acknowledges that it’s not leading the market and shifts its messaging to innovation.
The longer Confused.com’s messaging persists along the ‘don’t be confused’ path, the more it plays into the hands of comparison brands that spring to mind sooner than theirs.
Confused.com’s marketing doesn’t need to grow the comparison market, it needs to give the market that exists a better reason to switch to them.
The brand’s latest ads attempt to show ‘life’s little confusions’ that aren’t confusions at all – they’re depictions of awkwardness.
One thing that certainly is confusing is its approach to marketing, and that, Ms Morissette, is ironic.