Since the arrival of Paul Troy as Confused.com's head marketer a year ago the company has been on a mission to steal back its crown in the ultra-competitive price comparison sector.
After a difficult year that saw the outfit completely realign the business around one service, Troy is "quietly confident" the brand is back on track as it delivers a "knockout blow" ad that puts it top of the car savings sector.
“Marketing makes all the difference in the price comparison market,” says Troy, who swiftly scrapped Brian the Robot in favour of a pared back approach that defines the brand through the service it offers, rather than gimmicks.
The new marketing vision is centred around one premise; drivers win at Confused.com. Now everyone in the business has been realigned to car savings and the site redesigned to put this at the “front of the show room” at a time when two thirds of those people on price comparison sites are there for car insurance, claims Troy.
As for the rest of the services it offers, such as travel insurance, pet insurance, money savings, Troy quips: “If that declines or disappears do I care?”
He goes on to say: “I took a view that everybody is spreading themselves thinner and thinner across more areas, and decided to do what marketers should do and create a real point of difference. Ironically, Confused started the market and it got stolen from them, the way back is not to go throwing another character in like Gio or Meerkat, but to go back to basics and say: "This category is about drivers, let’s focus on saving them money.”
The brand’s latest ad, unveiled today (26 December), adds a new layer to this vision. Over the past 12 months Troy has set out to make the promise of being number one in the car savings sector a reality, by building a range of products in car insurance, buying and selling, maintenance and finance. Now it claims to be number one in the car savings sector based on the number of products available to drivers on its site, which Troy invites any of his competitors to challenge.
“Even if someone tries to challenge it [the claim], next month we are launching three new car saving products. If you are MoneySupermarket, Comparethemarket, GoCompare, you keep doing rat insurance, pet insurance, flights, it just gets wider and that makes me happy. We are going deep on one thing,” he says.
"Boxing Day will be a knockout blow," he adds. "Somebody will choke on their Boxing Day turkey, particularly Money Supermarket."
This appears to be paying dividends; while Comparethemarket is still top of the sector, Confused.com is fast approaching, growing 25% year-on-year since relaunching the new campaign in August, Troy claims. It's a strong lead in a market that is growing 9% year-on-year, and the marketer has ambitions to extend that growth to over 30% with its latest James Corden-fronted ad.
It plays off the first ad’s storyline of drivers who win, which saw James Corden run endless green lights in a car journey but with a few more twists and turns. The spinning car routine that results in a 'perfect park' is set to the soundtrack of Let's Stick Together by Bryan Ferry, and includes a nod to the Corden's nickname from the previous ad, Mr Greenlight, to maintain continuity.
While Troy is damning of his competitors' use of gimmicks in their ad campaigns and alleges that “people have lost the plot” in the sector, he knows a campaign without a lead takes longer to get traction and risks losing millions in cash. That’s why Confused.com opted for the celebrity route, and won big with Corden, who since signing has shot to fame with his popular YouTube show Carpool Karaoke, creating the perfect synergy with the brand’s focus on drivers.
Whether Corden is a long-term deal is yet unknown, but Troy is keen to assert that the brand’s campaigns are driver-, not celebrity-focused, and that there are plenty of other guest drivers who could step up to the role.
To become a one-stop-shop for all things car, Troy is open to partnerships with businesses in the motor space that could offer drivers new ways to save money, such as a major petrol retailer. It’s one of what could be many new strategic launches for the price comparison site in 2017 as it looks to leave GoCompare and MoneySupermarket at the bottom of the pile, and take on the meerkat-maker Compare the Market. He's confident the meerkat's latest ad which themed on Disney favourite Frozen, is the first sign of a brand losing its mojo: "Frozen is yesterday. It's old news."
However, rivals are not the only thing Confused.com needs to worry about. Concerns over the way price comparison sites earn their money, and whether they promote certain deals higher than others in their search rankings, has led the UK competition watchdog to investigate the level to which the sites actually benefit consumers.
Troy is confident he is on the side of the “good guys”, and that Confused.com has never crossed the line with advertising. He wasn’t so sure of his competitors, whom he says “might have promoted something more than they should have done”, leading to the investigation.
“I have no concerns about any watchdog looking at this category because we have no vested interest. Everyone knows how the model works, it is transparent and generates the best options for you. There is no hidden agenda," he concludes.