O2 embraces ‘difficult conversations’ as it looks to the future of marketing

November 9, 2016

What did you make of O2’s ‘Be More Dog’ campaign? The idea won a host of industry accolades and the slogan eventually became a mantra for the mobile network brand, but customers struggled to grasp the concept.

“The message of the campaign [was] essentially that life in the 21st century is pretty great,” Campaign magazine explains. “There are things that should amaze us, but people have become too jaded to appreciate what is around them.”

You can see why O2’s marketing effectiveness team concluded that the company’s customers “didn’t really get it”. Having a cat to deliver the message probably didn’t help matters.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Sandra Fazackerley, who set up O2’s new 80-strong team – whose job it is to understand how the firm’s marketing is performing – says that customers bought into the idea behind the campaign, but never really understood “how it translates to what O2 stands for”.

Explaining the role of the marketing effective team, Fazackerley added: “We class ourselves as an entire function that is about being guardians of the customer and bringing their voice to the table. We help the business really believe that if it focuses on customer performance the results really come through.”

‘Difficult conversations’ are necessary

Inevitably, by creating the new team – which has being going about its work for just over a year now – some “difficult conversations” will occur, Fazackerley said. These sorts of conversations are more important than ever, however, with the increased competition from EE, Vodafone and the newly launched Sky Mobile.

To find out what messages are cutting through with consumers, O2 is using marketing mix modelling and is looking at the role of its communications at a strategic level.  

Speaking directly to customers

O2 believes it has to be “clearer and punchier within [the] consideration layer”, i.e. when consumers are deciding what network to opt for. This has led the brand into adopting the ‘More for you’ slogan, after finding that telling people in a rational manner why they should choose O2 over its competitors led to better commercial results.

However, the mobile network doesn’t want to have to wait three months to find out how well the new campaign is faring. In order to track its effectiveness in real time, O2 has O2 META, which stands for marketing effectiveness, tracking and analysis. This gives it the ability to see what impact marketing messages are having on customers immediately after they are sent out, through a combination of YouGov BrandIndex data and social media monitoring.

The information is made available for all to see at the company’s head office via screens, while the data is also accessible on mobile devices.

Is this the future of marketing?

In much the same way top-level football has become a data-driven business, with the best managers relying on stats, rather than just their eyes, to gauge how well their team has played, marketing is becoming an increasingly technical industry.

It’s been that way for a little while, of course, but the idea of having a separate department “holding up a mirror” to the marketing team is relatively new. As is assessing data in real time, rather than waiting until the quarterly meetings to evaluate how well a campaign is performing.

The only risk is judging a campaign too early – before it’s had a chance to translate into sales. However, the primary measurement for O2 is social media mentions, rather than sales – in the short term anyway – suggesting it believes that subtle tweaks could be the aim of the game.

The subtlety of its new slogan, ‘More for you’, would also indicate that. It can hardly be called ‘out there’, unlike its predecessor, ‘Be more dog’, which certainly had greater scope, even if it left customers guessing as to how it reflects the brand. Maybe generic and direct is the way forward for O2, then? We’ll find out soon enough.

Dan Vivian - Business Development &  Marketing Director