Brand audit: Three

Three chose a dancing Shetland Pony to be the star of its first major brand campaign for four years at the start of March as it looked to boost brand preference against its big-spending rivals. While the campaign has been viewed on YouTube alone more than 6 million times, the activity does not appear to have significantly turned the dial on all its brand metrics now the ads are off-air.

YouGov’s BrandIndex shows Three’s Buzz score – a net balance of the positive and negative things people have heard about a brand and an indicator of brand perception – immediately rose from -0.1 the day before the campaign launched (28 February) to 0.3 by 8 March, by which time the campaign had aired on TV and been shared online by thousands of consumers.

Three’s Buzz score reached a peak of 1.7 on 19 March, more than a week after it had switched TV advertising to a series of user generated videos created using the online “Pony Mixer”, which allowed fans of the campaign to customise their own version of the ad with a selection of music themes and accessories.

The score, however, has declined to below levels before the campaign launched. It reached a to a low of -2.2 by 1 April and currently stands at -2.1, according to the latest available data (26 April).

Three’s overall Index score – which takes into account how consumers rate the brand in terms of impression, quality, value, reputation, satisfaction and whether they would recommend it – is higher than pre-campaign levels, although is still behind all its major rivals. Three’s Index score languished at -1.2 before the campaign launched (28 February), but now stands at 0.4.

Rival EE (8th in the Brand Index telecoms category rankings) has continued to advertise its first-to-market 4G tariffs in the period, while Vodafone (7th) and O2’s (3rd) marketing has focused on particular aspects of their 3G service such as Vodafone Red and O2 Tracks. Three ranks 16th in the category.

When Three launched the dancing pony campaign, its marketing director Tom Malleschitz said the brand was looking to target an “early majority” demographic – people who want smartphones but are not necessarily early adopters.

While BrandIndex does not include this exact demographic, when filtering the data to look at the 18-to 34-years-old age group, Three’s Index score rose to a peak of 3.5 on 21 March, falling back down to 0.5 currently. Among that demographic, Three is still behind its rivals in the overall Index ranking.

Tom Malleschitz, Three marketing director, says:”This was our first major brand advertising campaign this decade.  We realise it’s just part of the process of enabling UK consumers  to  understand what we’re all about – helping people enjoy the internet on their mobiles.  We’re really happy that so many people have enjoyed ‘Socks’ the wonder pony, but we know that brand-building is a long, long journey.  We have to keep on working to improve how customers feel about our services; and advertising is just one important part of the story.” 

Methodology: Marketing Week looked at YouGov BrandIndex measures from 28 February to 26 April, using a two week moving average of data.

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