Back when financial price comparison sites first set up shop, brands were falling over themselves to sign on the dotted line. After all, the argument went, they were simply the new brokers, getting brands in front of the consumer, so what was there to lose?
A few financial services providers, most notably Direct Line, refused to jump aboard because they believed their brand was strong enough already and were not keen to sit alongside rivals to be judged on price alone. Their decision was greeted with scepticism, with the general consensus being that they were the ones who would suffer.
Fast forward a few years and we’re now swamped by ads designed to get in your brain, and stay there until you decide to buy insurance or other financial products. From the much-bemoaned opera singer imploring us to “go compare”, through Cara’s wirey-haired “confusion”, Omid Djalili’s C-list packed moneysupermarket.com and Aleksandr Orlov and his meerkat chums, it is hard to avoid them. Despite – or maybe because of – its highly irritating TV ads, Gocompare has blown away the market.
Now while this may be good for commercial TV revenues – and definitely good for the bank balance of Go Compare founder Hayley Parsons, who is now worth £95m – have price comparison sites been good for the brands which populate them?
Not if the findings of a REaD Group survey are to be believed. According to the company’s Financial Services Sector Report, comparison sites do not exactly feel the love from customers, who rank them way down the list when it comes to trusting them with their marketing data.
This may be because the sites only do what they say on the tin; they compare different brands and get you the cheapest deal, therefore they are only as good as the brands they compare. Much more likely is that as soon as you sign up for one you are inundated with marketing from each brand – probably not ideal for the brand, definitely not ideal for the industry as a whole.
Let’s face it, financial services marketers aren’t exactly flavour of the decade, so anything that reinforces the view that they are wasting money is never going to go down well. Add in the mix recent claims that the 10 million consumers who use comparison sites are paying up to 24 per cent in commission (averaging at £64.59 each) and it seems brands are playing Russian roulette with their customer base. The question is, are you willing to take the gamble?
Charlie McKelvey is publishing editor of DecisionMarketing
Public ‘don’t trust comparison sites’