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Brand Strategy Compare The Market Marketing

Why Compare the Market ditched its chief marketer role


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

June 18, 2024 | 8 min read

The price comparison site has become the latest brand to drop the CMO. What does this tell us about the future of the marketing team?

Compare the Market meerkat mascots

Compare the Market brand mascots / Compare the Market

Compare the Market has restructured its business by separating its customer data from its brand marketing operations. It has eliminated its chief marketing officer role and replaced it with a chief brand officer title – a move that signals a major shift within the industry.

Mark Vile, a judge at The Drum’s Marketing Awards, has been chief marketing officer at Compare the Market for nearly seven years. He now transitions into a new role of chief brand officer. Tom Wallis, who had been serving as chief revenue officer for the past year, has meanwhile been made chief customer officer.

In Vile’s role as chief marketer, he was responsible for all upper funnel marketing activities, while the chief revenue officer managed the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) program.

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“Fundamentally, Compare the Market has two big assets that are its competitive advantages,” explains Vile. “The first is the brand, which is what customers think and feel about the organization. And then, by virtue of being the leading comparison site, it has a big customer data asset as well.”

This lends itself nicely, Vile says, to a new structure of chief brand officer and chief customer officer. Both positions sit in the boardroom, with Vile adding that marketing has always had a “strong seat” at the table within the business.

“My remit now is to make sure that all things related to the brand and the value that we create in the brand come to fruition, while our chief customer officer makes sure that our customer strategy and data strategies are all aligned.” The hope then is that with this new structure, Compare the Market can strengthen those “assets” even further.

Compare the Market is the latest brand to do away with its chief marketing officer role: Starbucks eliminated its top marketing role in March to devolve marketing power into regional teams. The restructures at Starbucks and Compare the Market are part of a wider trend that is seeing organizations rethink the CMO role and the wider marketing function.

There are other notable examples from brands such as UPS, which brought its marketing function under the helm of a chief commercial and strategy officer; Lyft, which separated its CMO title into two VP roles; and Uber, which replaced its CMO with a VP.

So, what is driving this change? “Given how marketing is getting blurred between product and technology, what we’re starting to see is far more different flavors of how marketing is set up in an organization,” argues Vile. There is a lot of “heavy machinery and operational delivery” that is needed to deal with customer data, which can often take chief marketers away from thinking about the future of the brand.

“I’m getting more time to get my head up and start to think about the long-term value of the brand because I have less focus on day-to-day performance marketing and trading. Yes, I’m really interested in the most recent campaign and what’s happening now to our short-term numbers, but more and more of my conversations and the conversations I can drive at board level are about taking that slightly longer view.”

Compare the Market’s brand strategy

The role of brand in price comparison sites cannot be overstated. It’s a low-interest category, where people don’t always search or switch providers to find better deals. One competitor, Go Compare, recently spoke to The Drum about the category challenge of fighting for attention. “Price comparison is one of those categories where everybody does broadly the same thing and you are all shouting quite loudly to get attention,” said its marketing director, Paul Rogers.

For Vile, the job of brand in this category is “to make sure that you are front of mind as the most loved brand when they do want to switch and to make sure you are driving loyalty.”

Compare the Market uses two key devices. The first is its brand platform, ‘Just Make it Simples’, and then its brand mascots, the famous Russian meerkats and recently added Australian Wombat.

“This notion of ‘just making it simples’ for customers is massive because Compare the Market wants to make it simple for how customers get access to the great savings and make it simple too great a great reward off the back of it,” says Vile. “Everything we do now needs to tell super compelling stories around how we’re ‘just making it simples’ for our customers. It gives the team lots of flex.”

As for the brand mascots, Compare the Market has used meerkats in its ads since 2009. Unlike Go Compare, which ended up in a love-hate relationship with its opera-singing mascot Gio Compario, the meerkats are still revered at Compare the Market.

“These characters provide Compare the Market with massive distinctiveness and what we will call brand fluency. As soon as someone sees these characters, they know it is Compare the Market.”

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The wombat is a more recent addition, but Vile explains that the character was introduced as a device to show confusion, allowing the meerkats to then show how things can be simple.

Vile believes that the meerkats endurance is down to why they were invented in the first place. “When the meerkats first came into being, we talked about how we were trying to bring entertainment into a category that was quite dull and boring. That entertainment DNA runs deep in terms of how to think about the brand.”

He gives the example of a recent content series with Shiana Twain and working with movie partners such as Disney on Frozen and Kingsman, as well as with Gary Barlow on an album release.

Vile acknowledges, however, that the company does have to keep a close eye on whether the characters are still liked by the public. Thankfully, right now, they are. “Likability is where the real value for the brand starts coming out in its characters.”

Mark Vile is speaking at The Drum Live on Wednesday September 25.

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