The innovative face of O2

O2 won the Brand Innovator of the Year award at the Engage Awards 2010 for the O2 Money brand extension. In this interview marketing director Sally Cowdry explains the thinking behind the launch of latest extension O2 Health and the strategy behind the O2 Home Phone campaign.


O2 is famous for its mobile business and the Marketing Week Engage awards judges rewarded the brand for “taking bold new steps and stretching its brand equity” with the launch of O2 Money.

Now, the company is continuing with this radical innovation. Its latest product offering sees the brand attempt to crack the home landline market with O2 Home Phone and the healthcare market with O2 Health, which runs in a similar way to the Wii Fit game using mobile technology.

Cowdry says: “These are the most important launches for us in the home space since we entered the broadband market and is part of our strategy to evolve beyond mobile to a leading connectivity brand.

“We know how many of our customers value the convenience of paying for their home phone and broadband together with no hidden extra costs, and we will be bringing the same commitment to quality of service with our home phone service as we have successfully established with broadband.”

While O2 Health is being marketed to NHS trusts direct, Cowdry is taking a more direct consumer-facing approach to marketing O2 Home Phone. The company has invested £5m on marketing the new service with a campaign entitled “Niggles and Narks”, created by VCCP.

It features characters such as the Crafty-Cost Nark and No Support-a-Saurus, in a bid to reassure consumers that they can “nobble their own broadband and home phone niggles.”

Cowdry explains: “All of what we do is very consumer driven, and we know that consumers hate companies that over-promise on broadband or telephone services. It’s demonstrating that we can offer the service that customers deserve without being misleading or over-promising.”

The focus on service follows O2’s recent success in JD Power and U Switch surveys based on customer experiences, where it topped lists. Cowdry says this allows the brand to be more innovative in its brand extensions and continue to provide services that customers want.

“We see great response to what we do and customers tell us they see us as a customer champion, so that gives us an opportunity to innovate and use all the media at our disposal to really engage with our customers and encourage interaction.”

An example of this was the launch of a free animated iPhone application called the Great Niggle Nobble game, aimed at directly engaging with UK broadband users in a fun and interactive way.

The game, which uses augmented reality technology, allows players to compete against one another for prizes and brings characters from the TV campaign into real time. It was designed by Agency Republic.

Cowdry says: “Innovation like this makes the brand fun, because it makes light of the frustrations of thousands of broadband users across the UK, such as poor customer service, hidden costs and slow connection speeds. It is a great way of combining our core broadband messages with some interactive fun. Services like this could be very low engagement and formulaic in their messaging, so we are always striving to make the brand and its messages as connected to the users as possible.”

This same logic has been applied in stretching its brand away from just mobile and into the financial services and healthcare sectors. O2 is clearly learning from its parent company Telefonica that standing still is not an option.


Marketing Week Engage Awards judges felt O2 Money’s launch “increased the loyalty to the brand” as well as “massively shifting its brand perception.” All agreed that O2’s initiative offered a truly distinctive brand innovation that deserved recognition.

The brand has now appointed Northern Rock executive James Le Brocq as its managing director of the financial services business in a bid to become “a leading service provider with mobile at its core”. It is already eyeing up a wide range of mobile banking services.

It is clear that Cowdry and her team are keen to stretch the O2 brand into fresh areas. The track record so far suggests there is plenty of potential for further brand extensions.

Go to the Marketing Week Engage 2011 Awards page here


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