Meerkat Manor is what my mother-in-law’s neighbours call her house in Derbyshire, UK. She has fallen-in-love with Aleksandr Orlov. He’s the Russian billionaire Meerkat fronting-up a novel marketing campaign for online insurance company www.comparethemarket.com. So enamored is she by Aleksandr – she’s invited his entire collection of family and friends to live with her and […]
Meerkat Manor is what my mother-in-law’s neighbours call her house in Derbyshire, UK. She has fallen-in-love with Aleksandr Orlov. He’s the Russian billionaire Meerkat fronting-up a novel marketing campaign for online insurance company www.comparethemarket.com. So enamored is she by Aleksandr – she’s invited his entire collection of family and friends to live with her and it is a vast entourage.
Joking apart she’s tapped into the zeitgeist. The meerkat campaign has achieved unprecedented success. That’s not only in the insurance industry but in brand advertising. The marketing initiative began with a novel sister website – www.comparethemeerkat.com featuring Aleksandr and companions. Then they appeared on TV advertising. The campaign brings a sparkle to normally dull insurance advertising. The company’s sales and market share have trumped the industry average and their industry ranking and company value have magnified too.
Aleksandr has a twitter account with almost 67,000 followers and his facebook following is approx 850,000.
But what has made the meerkat campaign so successful?
It’s a story, well told and brilliantly executed.
It is a myth about a Russian billionaire Meerkat Aleksandr Orlov. He lives in London and invests his time in vanity projects that inspire him. We were introduced to Aleksandr in January 2009. This chirpy chap aroused our curiosity. We fell for his endearingly awkward English phrases. Especially his habit of adding an s to words that didn’t call for them – such as “this is where I am comings from!”
The campaign has been brilliantly merchandised.
In October 2010, Aleksandr’s autobiography “A Simples Life” was launched. Customers who bought insurance got a free copy. It’s a tale about his family’s courageous journey from the Kalahari Desert to Russia. It shares his passions for grubs and cravats. The book had more pre-orders than several celebrity autobiographies. So far it’s received 325 customer reviews on Amazon.
In 2011, meerkat toys arrived. It was your chance to have your very own Aleksandr and generations of his family and friends too. Voila, the new era of the Crazy Meerkat Ladies & Gents was born.
Now, Aleksandr has gone to the cinema with Meerkat Movies.
But Aleksandr isn’t real. He’s not even a real meerkat! But then Father Christmas isn’t real. Yet we perpetuate that myth too. We fall in love with the universality of Aleksandr’s experiences. Not being a billionaire, but with his passion. Each advert is a slice of life. We connect with them. We’re engaged, entertained and hooked. We’ve come to know Aleksandr’s family as they grace our living rooms night-after-night.
Lastly, the digital age has created a platform for such a story in a new way. The campaign has flooded digital channels too.
Now for different story – Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle Mexican Grill has used authentic storytelling to spread its vision through a story about food integrity. They eliminate the ‘nasties’ mostly and tell us where they don’t.
It was inspired by the company’s founder, Steve Ellis. He wanted to create a fast food restaurant with a difference.
Chipotle has tapped into a powerful cultural narrative – ‘people want to know what’s in their food.’
For many, chemicals, hormones and GMO are off the menu. It’s to that war cry that Chipotle has responded, serving food with integrity.
Inspired by the Chipotle story, I spotted a restaurant in Redlands, California while on holiday there. It was ta chance to see if Chipotle lived up to its reputation. Indeed, it did. Great Mexican food made more digestible by knowing it was healthy.
Chipotle’s vision has come from founder and CEO, Steve Ellis.
Ellis studied art history and then trained as a chef. With a hunger to open his own restaurant, he was inspired by the Taqueria’s, in San Francisco. Their Burritos were amazing. Ellis wanted to create a healthy fast-food Mexican restaurant – an oxymoron in the industry.
He borrowed money from his parents and found his first premises in Denver. Renovating it on a low budget he opened the doors to the first Chipotle in 1993. People loved the food. Its success led to Chipotle No2 shortly afterward. It was also in Denver.
Ellis attracted investment from Mac Donald’s
In 1999 Mac Donald’s invested in Chipotle taking a controlling stake. That enabled it to grow like wildfire. MacDonalds has since divested Chipotle, declaring cultural differences. Now, over 1,800 Chipotle restaurants are dotted across the United States with a smattering in Canada & Europe (London & Paris). They turn over an astounding US$3b plus annually
The scarecrow myth
There’s plenty of internet video on Chipotle’s real story.
In addition, a movie and game called The Scarecrow Game has been circulating social media. It’s a stunning animation. It shows the ethos and vision of Chipotle Mexican Grill . The interactive game invites us to “foil the evil plans of Crow Foods and to