To distance itself from its competitors, TELUS released a new commercial entitled “Scream”, further supporting its customer-centric position as the mobile service provider who cares. It features a man waiting on hold for customer-service with another provider…and his frustration. The conclusion is that TELUS is better and the viewer is encouraged to visit the website where he/she can learn why.
The execution is decent. The message is clear and it resonates – we can all relate to such a situation. But is it true? Is TELUS really better?
Full disclosure: I am a TELUS customer and a former ad agency strategist with telco experience. This is not an evaluation of TELUS’ customer service, but rather an evaluation of their marketing and communications strategy.
TELUS has done a good job progressing with this positioning for the past few years. Telling customers they listen and care – even admitting they are not perfect. This platform has been well executed across all consumer touchpoints and has done a nice job of humanizing the brand.
But what strikes me is that while the positioning may seem unique at the moment, it is not original in the sector or sustainable. In fact, it’s already been the positioning for two other telcos in Canada.
When Virgin Mobile entered the Canadian market in 2005 it set out to be the consumer champion. Seeking to liberate Canadian consumers from the shackles of the “Big 3”, it leveraged the underdog, market-disrupter role of Virgin. The launch campaign, entitled “The Catch”, positioned the brand as the cure to the industry’s ills of contracts and hidden fees. In 2006, the brand was focused on treating customers with love and respect, exploiting the poor customer service and impersonal treatment by competitors. There was even a commercial featuring a frustrated man on hold with customer service. Since 2009 Virgin Mobile Canada has been wholly owned by BELL and is a youth-focused, experiential brand, selling the benefits of being a “member” – i.e. discounts at partners like H&M. This doesn’t seem part of the Virgin brand’s DNA. Obviously something changed.
WIND Mobile also began with a customer-first approach. Prior to entering the market in 2009, it solicited feedback from consumers and then built its offering to match. It too was keen to liberate Canadians from the oligopoly of mobile service providers.
In 2011, the account changed hands but the positioning continued – albeit with a new creative platform. The focus was still on treating customers fairly, and with respect – listening to and implementing their ideas and feedback; putting the customer first. But in 2013, the brand moved to a higher-level, more empowering position featuring the tagline “True Mobile Freedom”.
Why did both Virgin Mobile and WIND Mobile start with similar positioning’s and change course? Because the idea of listening and responding to customers needs – being customer-centric – was (and is) not a sustainable positioning.
It is one thing to put customers first in your approach to business. For a million reasons it makes sense and you should. But it’s a whole other thing to build your positioning around the idea.
Powerful, valuable, long-lasting brands inspire people. They stand for something, giving people something to believe in. Yes people like it when you listen to them. But once you’ve done that, then what? You need to lead.
The reality is that every brand should deliver good customer service. Every brand should treat customers fairly. Every brand should listen. Starbucks is oft cited as a pioneer and leader in this regard for their “My Starbucks Idea” community, but in our hyper-connected, always-on, seemingly transparent world every brand is (or can) do it. It’s just not a focus of their messaging.
So what about TELUS?
To be honest, I’m not really sure what TELUS stands for, why the brand exists. And I’m not going to suggest specific solutions, here. But I believe that the current positioning is transitory and hope I’ve demonstrated why it should be. I’m also curious if anyone has thoughts about the positioning not being unique – even if they don’t recall previous brands’ efforts.
I’ve always respected the TELUS brand and I know some of the people who worked on it in the past and/or work on it now. I think they’ve done a good job. But I’ll be really interested to see what the brand does next.