The telecom industry has always been innovative, but the innovation has been mostly incremental. Over the past century, we had telegraphs, then wired telephones, then wireless phones, then cell phones, and now we have smartphones. Up until the smartphone, the iterations were not fully reimagined products, just significant improvements on the existing products of the era. Today, we have high-speed internet and smartphones that put most of our communication and entertainment literally at our fingertips. Never has the telecom industry had to reinvent itself to the extent that it does today.
Telecom companies are now essentially media companies, not phone and internet companies. To accommodate all of these changes and to rapidly adapt, telecoms are engaging in an unprecedented number of mergers and acquisitions. A combination of these factors means telecoms need to constantly rethink their products and positioning. They also have to build and market new products—and they have to do it quickly.
All of this activity results in a wider variety of services and products, and telecoms are going to market with different value propositions for each of these. Telecoms’ products do not have a singular value to consumers, and because telecoms often do so many things well, they often promote many different perks—resulting in cluttered and confusing messaging.
To thrive, telecoms need to understand consumer preferences, consider all possible factors at their disposal and deliver the best possible combination of benefits, insights and claims to their target audience. But more importantly, telecoms need to holistically look at all components of the marketing—from name, packaging, benefits, reasons to buy, pricing, etc.—in order to create new brand personas that are most impactful for the new type of businesses that telecoms are becoming.
To keep up with the consumer landscape, many telecom companies have transformed the way they do business. It’s common for telecom companies today to look more like traditional media companies than communication companies. But in many ways, the telecom industry also has commonalities with the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. As I discussed above, the packaging and messaging coming from telecom companies today are becoming complicated and oftentimes confusing—a challenge that consumer goods companies have tackled for many decades now.
CPG companies are used to launching products from scratch. A single consumer goods product could offer dozens of benefits and a million possible brand personas. And yet the very best marketers in CPG have launched brands successfully by considering all of the many brand factors at once rather than just making tweaks to existing branding.
One of the most common ways CPG marketers get a more holistic view of all the different factors that affect a brand is by leveraging a research methodology called Adaptive Conjoint Analysis (ACA). This approach isn’t common in telecom yet, but I think it should be.
In a nutshell, conjoint analyses find the best combination of claims, benefits, names, prices, etc., available. What differentiates ACA from other conjoint methodologies is that it helps analyze a large number of factors at the same time rather than testing a small sample of the “winning” concepts from qualitative methods. This is useful when you are building a brand from scratch since you’re dealing with a lot of unknowns about the product, its use cases, and so on. The ability to quantitatively test a much larger set of marketing factors at once is beneficial to understanding the interplay of these factors and determining the most ideal combination available for your brand.
Recently, a large consumer goods company approached Escalent with an urgent request. The company was preparing to launch a new brand but had to scratch its plans after a corporate leadership change. New executives felt that the plan in place wasn’t in-line with the new company’s brand. The new leadership’s task was significant: start from scratch but don’t move the launch date—so speed was critical.
In partnership with the client, we executed a strategic approach using ACA to understand all the possible outcomes in terms of naming, package design, benefits, reasons to buy, claims, pricing, etc. Within three weeks, we were able to identify a myriad of qualitative learnings and bring everything together in a quantitative model that provided specific recommendations for the client. We were able to tell our client, for instance, how choosing a certain name and package design would affect pricing and other aspects of the brand.
The client got a deeper understanding of the best possible combination rather than looking at different factors separately. The marketing team was able to provide these insights to the leadership team, and the company launched the brand successfully—and on time (oh, and the product is performing phenomenally in market!).
The pace of change today means telecoms need to be more agile. As you build and promote new brands, it becomes more important to holistically understand all the factors that can shape consumer perception.
It’s safe to assume that in the next few decades, telecom will become even more complicated. The days of having just a few products with a very clear value proposition for consumers are gone. To navigate this new era, you need to constantly consider all the factors that shape your brand, evaluate the dependencies among them, and maximize the impact of all of them together.
The good news is that this is a challenge that CPG companies have solved before—and the potential is there for telecoms to leverage this approach as well. Please contact me if you’d like to learn more.