Choosenick spotted this the other day, an article about sites taking the online experience offline. About the same time, I was watching TV when an Aviva ad came on (Aviva being the expensive new name for Norwich Union) for car insurance. Car insurance must be the most cluttered and clumsy marketplace in the world. If I hear another commitment to quote me less, I'll go mad.
Anyway - the smart guys at Aviva ran an ad saying that when you phone for a quote, they will also give you quotes from their competitors. The ad plays it as if you were the ad executive at Aviva making the suggestion, looking at your colleagues' reaction around the table. They look at you in incredulous silence for two, three seconds - an eternity in TV terms. It's quite powerful, which is an amazing achievement for a car insurance ad.
Aviva are smart because they've accepted that no-one listens to "lower than your currnt quote" pledges any more. They also know that the marketplace is increasingly transparent - with sites like confused.com offering brokerage. So they sensibly expanded their service.
But that's pretty radical. Not many company's will tell you their competitors' prices. It's like the John Lewis "never knowingly undersold" pledge, but taken to new heights. Companies that absorb such digital realities and turn them to their advantage stand a far better chance of success.