Telecoms operator O2 launched O2 Money in June last year with two prepaid Visa cards marketed exclusively to its customer base of 28 million.
The aim was to not only extend the O2 brand beyond an increasingly saturated telecoms market, but to further demonstrate its value and importance to its existing customer base.
Linking its mobile service to a financial proposition saw O2 awarded the Brand Innovation prize at the 2010 Marketing Week Engage Awards.
O2 says it will continue to innovate by linking O2 Money to Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that will see the service come full circle – O2 Money’s prepaid cards can be topped up via a user’s mobile phone; and the introduction of NFC will allow users to make other payments and purchases from their handset.
O2 partnered with mobile device manufacturer Nokia in 2008 to trial the technology in a handset. Nokia says that it will officially launch a handset that operates the technology next year.
O2 marketing director Sally Cowdry says the brand will launch NFC services in the next 18 months once the retail infrastructure to support it is established.
“We have extensively tested NFC with our customers and we remain committed to rolling out the services,” she says. “But while the technology and consumer demand might be in place, you do need to have an ecosystem and all the merchants need to be ready as well. When all those things line up we’ll be ready. We have been ahead of this innovation curve for some time.
“Whatever we do in that space will be linked to the O2 Money portfolio and we are working with the rest of the industry on the rollout timing.”
Cowdry adds that O2 Money is part of a “jigsaw puzzle” of innovation, in line with the brand’s premise of “delivering great customer experiences”. She says parent company Telefonica’s acquisition of voice-over-internet provider Jajah in December last year is an example of this. The Skype-like technology allows O2 to expand its international calling proposition.
“We have used O2 Money as our showcase but really throughout the year there have been a host of brand innovations,” says Cowdry. “When we innovate, we do it from our brand strategy core – this isn’t about us having multiple businesses that we just put our brand on; it all connects to our strategy of connecting people to people and things they love. We want to do that through differentiating with great experiences.”
Cowdry reveals that new products will be added to the O2 Money range, but won’t confirm whether it will extend beyond prepaid cards to a fully fledged credit card.
“There will be a whole host of new products but it’s a bit premature for me to announce them now,” she says.
Learn more about the Engage Awards 2011 categories, including the Innovation category, here