Quick facts: I am an iPhone user. I wanted one, I am based in the UK. What to do? Switch to O2, which had the exclusivity for this. This post is not about bandwidth, 3G availability or anything like that – I have not (much) to complain about this actually. It is not about the iPhone either.
This post is about the simple mistakes network operators (plural; O2 is not alone here) make by not living up to their own messages. Listening to customers and identifying (and answering!) user needs.
Back story: I have an iPhone 3G on a £45/month plan, which gives you countless voice minutes and lots of SMS and unlimited data – in the UK that is. In short, I do not normally have to pay anything for (UK) calls and texts, hence the tariff. Now, if you dare travel with your iPhone, you’re in for nasty surprises. The only thing O2 UK has to offer is slices of 10 or 50MB of data for some hefty sum.
One of the most insulting things about this is this: I used to have a Blackberry on O2 and, you see, you can purchase an international roaming plan that gives you blanket data coverage on your device when abroad for – if I remember correctly – £25/month extra. Would I take this? Any day. Does this exist for iPhone tariffs? No.
O2 UK would be able to easily deduce that I am traveling regularly. Great opportunity to hook me into an even dearer deal, you might think (ad slogans include “We’re better, Connected” and “O2 can do”). But wrong you are. Whenever I travel with O2 abroad (and this is on an O2 network), this is what I get:
They actually send me at least 3-4 SMS with various warnings and alerts about how expensive and truly nasty it is to use my (O2-purchased) phone to its full potential and capacity whenever I dare leaving British soil. Connected? Can do? Not at all! Very inspiring. NOT!
Does it offer ANY solution to my apparent need? No. Does it try? No. What does this say about how important I am to them as a customer? A lot. And nothing good either.
It reveals a very “last century” way of looking at life: users are basically being perceived as revenue-generating units rather than someone the brand even attempts to communicate with. This is a very short-term view of the world, and one that is bound to fail quickly. Why? Because I am very likely to switch carriers (I have already unlocked my iPhone, which you can – incidentally – do here).
Now, O2, listen up: will I switch because there are so many other so much better offers out there? No. Will I do it because I fear the charges? No. I might end up paying the same as before. But that’s OK. I will do it because you, my dear carrier, showed me that you do not give a toss about me as your customer and you failed to deliver on your promise (“connected”, “can do”). I beg this will change about 2 weeks before my contract with you runs out: you will promise me everything under the sun to keep me but this is cheap, and I will not have it (as, I suspect, will apply to countless others).
Here’s the solution: Try and build some trust in your brand and your actions (Zappos anyone?). The reference to Zappos is not only a fashionable one (and, yes, I know it turns up in every man and his dog’s presentation these days; I used it myself a couple of weeks ago… But Zappos business is, get this, O2, to deliver happiness. You think that this is over the top? Think again: Tony Hsieh just sold his company for a very real-worldly price of $800 million to Amazon. His company is America’s biggest shoe retailer. Did I say shoes? Happiness!
Do you have to go that far? I would wish you would. But, dear O2, a little respect and care would already do it. Any of this? None I can see or hear, and your hotline will know I have tried! In modern “Tweetish”: #fail.
Listen and deliver. Then the rest will come. Until then, it’ll be Vodafone for me (who at least abolished roaming charges) or Orange (if they manage to learn from the above in time before my contract runs out).
A lot is being said about mobile marketing, mobile advertising, capturing “consumer’s” imagination (if not only their eyeballs). And everyone says: “yes, I get that, social, mobile, always-on, always with them, cool!” Online ad spend outstrips TV already (at least in the UK), and mobile is arguably the next big thing; it is so much cooler, too: personal, accessible, always-on!).
So how do you execute? Banner ads? Text ads? Virals? “Ah, yes, virals are cool, I heard about them!”
There’s a busload full of mobile advertising networks out there, blind, premium blind, premium (check here for a great overview). And what do they do? Well, banner ads, text ads, the usual. Does it work? Anecdotally, sort of… Most developers and publishers I know that engage in this sort of activity make their money in two ways: either they are being commissioned by an advertiser to do it (good because you’re being paid!) or they use it as complementary (sic!) revenue; on a stand-alone basis, it would not feed them.
Why is the conversion not soaring? After all, mobile allows for unprecedented targeting (IF you do it. See here how not to do it): users have their phones always with them, it is always on, you can fall back on historical behaviours, etc, etc.
I would posit that it is because most advertisers still think of it in terms of consumers: beings that sit on the other (sic!) end of the message and who consume whatever I, advertiser, want to tell them. It is not, alas, true engagement, and this is where arguably the future lies.
So how do you engage? Many options. A good one is by being sincere (Zappos, the online shoe retailer that was recently acquired by Amazon, is a great example). Another one is by engaging rather than preaching. Not so easily done with banners. Easier done with something more interactive. Such as – an example – games and apps. On Apple’s app store, there are some great successes for this type of thing: German car manufacturers seem to be good at this! Audi did one, German developer Fishlabs did a couple of games for Volkswagen, Artificial Life for BMW, and then there is Waterslide Extreme, which is basically a Barclaycard ad (and badly executed: they could so easily have accommodated the RFID function, which the original cinema and TV ad is meant to promote; alas, they ignored it!) which despite its shortfalls was incredibly successful. But these are exceptions to what I think might well become the rule. On the app side, there are e.g. Pizza Hut and Gap that were recently featured (for free!) in Apple ads. Wow!
It seems obvious when you think about it: games truly engage (users – not consumers! – interact with them actively) and they can do so in a much more subtle manner (less invasive). At the same time, the user (not: consumer) spends a lot more time with the brand than with a banner ad.
It is, alas, a space of unknown dangers and unprecedented adventure: never-before seen creatures (scil. formats) and strange folks (scil. developers) roam weird landscapes (scil. mobile platforms). This is how brands and their agencies often experience mobile. They "get" it, don’t get me wrong but they are still fairly unfamiliar with it. And because the big pots of gold sit with the brands and they don’t want to risk cutting access, they’ll rather (and rather too often) stick with what they perceive as the trusted old paths. It’s not so good then that the freshest fruit grows on the trees in this new land and no longer in the wastelands of banner ads…
Watch this space then. It will only be a question of time (I hope) before we’ll be seeing a new wave of non-intrusive, interactive, fun brand engagement. And games and apps will lead the way!