O2 talks up brand purpose as it acknowledges sector 'isn't as loved' as it should be

CMO Nina Bibby said the brand's 'Follow the Rabbit' proposition was appealing to consumers

O2's chief executive Mark Evans has admitted that the telecoms sector is not as loved by consumers as it should be – a challenge the brand's chief marketing officer, Nina Bibby, believes O2 itself has managed to alleviate thanks in part to a focus on brand purpose.

The firm's parent company Telefónica has just unveiled a robust set of financial results for the most recent quarter of the year, with revenues up the UK by 2.6% year-on-year. However, speaking at a dinner on Wednesday evening, Evans outlined the challenges faced by the industry in instilling a sense of trust in users – particularly when so many of them are reliant on mobile devices for their day-to-day experiences.

"The sector as a whole is not as loved as it needs to be. It’s pivotal to your lives, but if you look at the trust and confidence that consumers have, it’s not great. So we’re keen to call on the industry to change that," he said.

Evans added that O2 has made moves to be more transparent with customers, finding success with tariffs like O2 Refresh, which separates airtime bills from price of hardware and allows customers to change their device at any time without penalty.

When questioned on whether purpose-driven marketing, like O2's freshly-unveiled 'Follow the Rabbit' proposition, could help drive trust in the sector, Bibby said: "I think it's so important to be a purposeful company. There's a lot of research to demonstrate that companies with purpose at their core do perform better."

To Evans' point that mobile technology is central to home and work life, and the need to build confidence in providers based on this fact, she added: "We're constantly looking at what we can do to make that better, and that personal experience is such a big part of O2, so for me they're intrinsically linked."

The brand recently turned to Snapchat as part of its 10-year anniversary campaign for the O2. Speaking on what platforms she believes drive consumer loyalty in particular Bibby said that while O2 invests heavily in digital for her a big part of making sure customers remain with the network comes from its own platforms like Priority. The service offers early access to gig tickets and other perks like free coffee and discounts, initiatives Bibby claims have saved consumers £15m over the course of the year and make them 28% more likely to recommend the brand.

She said that in terms of satisfaction O2 scores the highest against a broader set of competitors as well as immediate ones, citing the reason for this as how it values and rewards customers by weaving its way into their everyday lives.

Despite O2's successes Evans made it clear his belief that collectively tackling industry-wide perceptions would benefit everyone involved.

"If you look at the technology sector, whether it's TV, broadband or mobile, it really is not loved. Yet, these are services that are so fundamental to how we live our lives, so I think we have a collective responsibility to do something about that," he added, saying he wanted to call on the industry to offer the same propositions as O2.

"Your mobile, and mobile technology, is becoming even more pertinent to everything you do. I would suggest that [consumers] need to be able to trust their mobile provider more than their bank - that's the cause that we want to get at."

Rival Vodafone has been seeking to build up trust in recent months by pivoting towards a customer-centric approach and investing in AI and Amazon's Alexa assistant to improve consumer experiences.

Last May, the EU commission blocked O2 from merging with its competitor Three. Telefónica had been reported to be considering putting O2 to an IPO following the ruling, but Evans said on Wednesday evening that any plans for this could be delayed dependent on the outcome of the Ofcom's planned 5G auction.

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