MoneySuperMarketing is rethinking its approach to marketing as it looks to give the discipline more strategic importance and ensure its brand is more famous than its ads.
The price comparison site is making a raft of changes including hiring its first chief customer officer and putting its ad business up for pitch. The incumbent, Mother, will not be repitching as MoneySuperMarket seeks a fresh direction for the brand.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Darren Bentley, MoneySuperMarket’s marketing director, says that while the brand is “very proud” of its work with Mother, which includes ads such as “epic strut” and more recent work featuring He-Man and Action Man (see video above), it needs to shift direction.
“[Mother] played a hugely important role in our journey to help customers save £2bn on their household bills last year. We have been working with them for seven years and we are very proud of that work,” he explains.
“But last summer we completed a big strategic review and we have a new CEO and this is very much about how we define the next stage of growth for our business. We want to help make it easier for customers to save money and we have to disrupt ourselves and the category to do that.
“One thing we absolutely have done is get our ads into the psyche of the UK population. Whether you love them or you hate them, everyone recognises them. The challenge we have is that the ads are more famous than the brand. In a category where customers might only use us once every 12 to 18 months, that is hard to get over.”
That means its ‘Save money, feel epic’ campaign is likely to be dropped. While Bentley says it has “served the business very well”, he believes the brand has insight and a point of view that gives it a platform to go in a different direction.
“There are now many brands and businesses claiming to save [consumers] money; it is not differentiated as a positioning,” he says. “In price comparison as a category there is a lack of differentiation. Beyond cuddly toys and cinema tickets there is no differentiation.
“We are not trying to pick up and improve on ‘Save money, feel epic’. If that was all the brief was there is enough capability at Mother. This is a bigger refresh than that, it should feel like a bigger refresh if we are going to justify [pitching].”
Reinventing price comparison
Part of that new marketing strategy is focused on bringing more flexibility to its campaigns so it can showcase the breadth of services it offers. Bentley says the ‘You’re so MoneySuperMarket’ ads were “very good” at driving the car insurance business for example, but it has 44 different services on offer, 14 of which generate more than £5m in revenue.
“We have the most diversified price comparison site on the market,” he claims. “But you can’t tell that when you look at our advertising compared to the rest of the category. Our new advertising has to offer the ability to flex around the full proposition. And, the most important thing, to position marketing and advertising to support the reinvention of the business and price comparison as we look at it.”
That reinvention is focused on three key areas: personalisation, being more proactive and making price comparison easier.
The challenge we have is that the ads are more famous than the brand.
Darren Bentley, MoneySuperMarket
Quite what that will look like isn’t clear, although Bentley talks of finding new ways to reach customers. That could exclude, for example, offering smart recommendations to people when they are reading through their direct debits. “We want to take price comparison out to customers, rather than them having to seek out MoneySuperMarket,” he explains.
MoneySuperMarket is also looking at ways to improve its CRM to make its communications more relevant to consumers and the services they are searching for, rather than simply pushing out the latest promotions. MoneySuperMarket has data on 25 million customers, which Bentley calls “a privilege its takes very seriously”, and is using propensity modelling and customer segmentation to work out how best to reach them.
“Our reinvention has to work with the proposition first then be reflected in the comms. We were too heavily dependent on advertising. We have to think about taking new services to customers, combining tech and data to offer more personalised services,” he adds.
Rethinking the media mix
MoneySuperMarket also wants its advertising to work beyond 60- and 30-second spots on TV. Bentley says MoneySuperMarket is “very strong” in the TV environment, but that is dependent on strong voiceovers and soundtracks that don’t necessarily work as well online where people might be viewing only for two or three seconds and with the sound turned off.
Hand-in-hand with a review of its agency and creative is a reconsideration of its media mix and the level of investment in Google, above-the-line advertising and the weight of radio, outdoor, TV and digital.
That has already led to MoneySuperMarket investing more in Facebook as a channel to drive awareness and consideration. And Bentley has also been considering key marketing theories such as Byron Sharp’s ‘How Brands Grow’ and Les Binet and Peter Field’s ‘The long and short of it’ and how they apply to the price comparison sector.
“Broadly, we invested in TV to drive top-of-mind awareness and consideration and for those customers we had not reached that were going into Google and searching for particular products we invested in Google,” he says.
“We have been very strong in Google historically, but there are headwinds on the Google side because we are not in complete control. Historically, customer acquisition was weighted in the Google direction because of the shape of the digital marketplace – moving forward we want our brand to play a bigger role than Google does.”
One thing that won’t be changing is a focus on salience, which is so crucial in the price comparison space. Bentley credits this as something Mother “does very well”, and it is not looking to step back from that.
“Attention is hard earned in our category so salience is critical for us. We want to refresh the brand and the agency, not step back from what made MoneySuperMarket so popular up to now.”
Bringing marketing to the top table
MoneySuperMarket Group has historically been structured by brand, with TravelSuperarket, MoneySuperMarket and MoneySavingExpert operating almost as separate entities. It is now moving to more of a vertical business structure, a move that Bentley says paves the way for a chief customer officer. That CCO will be on the executive team at MSM Group and report directly into CEO Mark Lewis.
“We are already very much a customer-focused organisation. This just lifts that focus to exec level and lifts strategic marketing capabilities to the top table,” says Bentley.
And what will marketing success look like once the new agency and chief customer officer are in place? “Moving forward for us it is about standing out and reinventing our business, and using our marketing and advertising strategy to support that. We want an agency partner that can build on the awesome legacy Mother helped build and take us beyond the £2bn we helped our customers save last year.”