BT shifts marketing strategy from ‘celebrities and hyperbole’ to building trust

The telecoms giant is changing its advertising style to take a more emotional approach in a bid to become more “relevant” to consumers’ lives.

BT has launched a new campaign that has “trust” at its heart instead of “celebrities and hyperbole” as it looks to reconnect with consumers.

The brand has faced a lot of negative press over the past year. In June, Ofcom revealed that BT topped a list of the broadband providers generating the most complaints, averaging 34 complaints per 100,000 subscribers. It was followed by TalkTalk, then BT-owned Plusnet and EE.

Meanwhile, BT’s profits fell more than 40% in the first quarter of its new financial year after it was forced to pay out £225m to two shareholders following an accounting scandal at its Italian operation.

YouGov BrandIndex figures also show that BT still has some work to do to improve consumer perceptions of the brand. BT is currently placed 24th out of 27 tablet and broadband providers, with Blackberry, AOL and TalkTalk following in its wake.

Its Index ranking, a measure of a range of metrics including quality, value and reputation, has also fallen by -1.4 points over the past year to -0.9.

By adopting a new advertising style, BT aims to be more relevant to its customers’ daily lives while educating them on its different products and services.

It is launching two ads today (4 August), created by AMV BBDO. Its broadband advert focuses on the emotional benefit of its wifi, while an ad for BT Sport shows the breadth of sports it shows on its channels. The ads will run across TV, outdoor, digital and social.

Zaid Al-Qassab, BT’s chief brand and marketing director, says the campaign marks a shift in approach for BT as it looks to create a marketing platform that can help shift perceptions of the brand and help boost trust. While the brand’s recent campaigns have focused on “celebrities and hyperbole”, it is now looking to shift towards its “heritage” of showing how the brand connects consumers.

“[This campaign] is much more about real people and their daily lives and how communication is important to them. It shows how BT brings you closer to what matters to you,” he tells Marketing Week.

“On a more long-term basis, we want to reposition the brand with our advertising approach. We are deliberately talking about real life and real stories because were trying to become known for [forming] those relationships, and it’s very much part of BT’s heritage.”

But will an ad campaign be enough to restore consumer trust in a brand that has been hit by a wave of negative headlines over the Italian scandal, as well as ongoing issues around customer service?

Al-Qassab says the campaign runs alongside a heavy investment in its customer experience, with 86% of customer calls now answered by an employee based in the UK or Ireland. BT claims it is investing an extra £80m over the next two years to improve its service.

“We are consistently improving our customer service ratings. That’s what matters, and on top of that, it’s important to build engagement with our customers,” he says.

The plan is for this latest campaign to be a long-term marketing platform, with BT planning on sticking with this new strategy for at least the next year as it looks to integrate the message across all its services, including mobile. That will mark a big change, with BT Mobile so far focusing on big-name celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds in its marketing.

Al-Qassab concludes: “If it comes from the same platform, we can really harness the brand and allow it to become more consistent and powerful.”

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