Vodafone's results demonstrate the telecom sector¹s looming struggle in Europe this year. Brand agency Wolff Olins, who developed EE, the UK's most advanced digital communications company, and work with other telcos including Oi and, previously, Telenor, can offer comment on Vodafone and other telecom brands on how there is still an opportunity to grow in this disrupted and commoditized marketplace.
Morgan Holt, brand strategist at Wolff Olins, has over 15 years experience working in media and branding. He was director of media innovation and propositions at the mobile phone company 3, strategy director at the integrated agency Engine, and head of broadcast digital at Endemol. Morgan has been a producer, editor, and journalist for everyone from the Daily Mail to the BBC and Crisis to Cambridge University and has also worked on the service and company structure of these brands: Argos, the BBC, Bupa, Expedia, Kimberly Clark, NESTA and most recently the Brazilian Telecoms company Oi.
Now is an extraordinarily challenging time for telecom brands because businesses like Skype, Apple and Google are setting customer's technology expectations, and taking ownership of relationships with the customer.
Because people don't understand what a 'network' is, telecoms companies struggle to differentiate what they do and as a result competition has lately been dictated by lowest price and service packages.
Morgan's advice for telco companies covers the following points and he can elaborate on each in interviews:
If you want to win by being a network the capabilities you need to deliver are speed, reliability, innovation and ubiquity:
1. Each generation brings a new level of speed: 3G, 4G, Fibre Broadband. How can an innovator role help incremental growth pay off over a longer period?
2. A quantified world promises better wellbeing. Playing a role in people's health connects the pieces that operators excel in: personal data, hardware and ubiquity.
3. Machine-to-machine takes connectivity far beyond your remit. With most of what a telco does happening below the surface, buyers need help to appreciate your value.
If you want to win by being a service you need to bring customers closer, differentiate on your people and build a culture of delivery:
1. Despite intense price competition and threats of losing out to OTT, voice and text continue to be big cash generators, particularly in emerging economies. How can your role promise more than hygiene factors but continue to deliver on basics?
2. Customers will pay to be entertained, how can you configure your business relationships with aggregators so that your brand can take advantage of this?
3. Using massive datasets to create brand new services requires operators to think and work outside their traditional supply chain. How can your role help you create partnerships and profit beyond telecoms?
If you're winning on product you need to build an agility into your operations that takes on the social and software players:
1. Operators already directly underwrite virtual services for the IT industry but this makes you even less visible. How can your brand be more tactile and still deliver virtual services?
2. Contactless devices make handsets even more powerful in people's lives, how can your brand stay at the heart of this transaction?