Three CMO on how 'phones are good' belief underpins its new marketing strategy

Mobile carrier Three has carved out new brand purpose – 'Three The Fun' – that it believes will help it resonate with UK audiences and re-establish it as a challenger brand. To do so it has embraced high-profile app partners that can deliver unique incentives and experiences to customers.

Shadi Halliwell, chief marketing officer at Three, who joined from Harvey Nichols in 2017, opened up on a new PSA-style marketing campaign based around the premise that ‘Phones Are Good’, telling The Drum: "Using your phone isn't a problem."

While extensive mobile phone usage is commonly linked to mental health and wellbeing issues, Three and Wieden+Kennedy London have taken a step back in time to show just how convenient these devices – and associated apps – are. The aim is to alleviate the guilt many feel while enjoying their smartphones. In a saturated mobile space (generating £35.6bn in revenue in 2016), Three is championing these devices to get a foot up over the likes of EE, O2, Vodafone.

"Using your phone isn't a problem. We are targeting people who can see through all the nonsense, it's not for the fools that said watching TV will turn your eyes square or that masturbating will make you go blind – we believe phones are good."

In the latest campaign, vital historical points have been reimagined with smartphones, including starving cavemen ordering Deliveroo, Henry VIII’s wives staving off execution with the implementation of Tinder, and Moses parting the Red Sea for an unmissable Snap Story.

Noticeable here is the inclusion of app partners, an evolution of Three's Puggerfly cyberpet partnership with Snapchat and its easyJet travel perks released earlier this year.

“Partnerships are the new sponsorship model, now is the time to shake hands with some of these really big brands that bring experiences in a different way,” Halliwell said. To this end, Samsung, Instagram, Deliveroo, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Tinder all feature in some way and are building further activations around their participation.

The campaign launches on mobile first on 17 October – “we are mobile first after all,” said Shadi. The next day, work will roll out on TV, across social, digital, cinema and out of home.

On her time in the role, which has included transitional work featuring hybrid animals, she said: “In the last 12 months, we are showing that we want great partnerships and we will deliver those well for our customers. In parallel, our company purpose will take us forward. I had to go right back into our past 15 years and get a lot of company people to come up with the right answer. Our new purpose is 'Three the Fun'. The freedom to explore, experience and be more, that is what a phone is all about.”

She also reflected on the need for a new purpose, harkening back to 2015’s ‘Make it Right’ campaign featuring Jackson the puppet (below).

“That was too restrictive for us as a business because we are a challenger brand and should be able to challenge everything. Equally, we can’t make everything right in the mobile industry, so in a world where customers can see through that it is not a truth you want to continue with.”

The new spots were directed by Ian Pons Jewell. Friend handled production and Mindshare bought the media.

Adding to the work, London painter Reuben Dangoor has reimagined historical figures and paintings through the mobile lens of today’s social media profile pictures. These will be displayed in a gallery at 13 Soho Square from 26-27 October.

Furthermore, there will also be takeovers in retail stores across Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and London. Customers will also be invited to bring their phones to stores for a Phone Spa experience.

Halliwell concluded: “We have just under 11 million customers in the UK, we want them to reappraise and choose us. We had to stand for something, we had to tackle network perceptions because they are not true in the real world, and we had to grow up.

“This is a really good conversation to have with customers. This is a conversation that will take us out of the industry. I've been in the industry for 24 years, at 02, BT and BT Cellnet. After returning, I realised how dull the mobile industry was – we're not dull.”

Vote for it below in The Drum's Creative Works.

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