June 4, 2013How to inspire brand loyalty

As somebody who writes this crap for a bloody living, I consider myself pretty damn immune to marketing. I have very little brand loyalty, I don’t believe a word that comes out of a copywriter’s mouth, I’ll never give you my data, and the only thing that really counts in my decision to purchase something is a review I can trust, preferably from a person I know.

Like most folks, when Three Mobile’s 3G internet service went down on Monday night, I was pretty bloody annoyed. I’d have gone online to vent about it but, well… I clearly wasn’t getting online. The situation hadn’t cleared up by Tuesday morning so I got a bit more annoyed.

Then I actually thought about it.

I pay £25 per month for my phone and mobile internet. I’m on a one month rolling contract — I’m the kind of person that thinks being tied down is a prelude to being fucked. Contract? You can suck a lemon if I can’t get out of it at any time.

Vodafone’s £23 a month service buys me one tenth of the call time and just 500mb of streaming data a month. And I doubt they let you tether.

I use about 8gb a month on the road. Three’s service is a lifesaver. I honestly don’t know how I lived without it.

So when I saw a rival brand, o2, mocking Three on Facebook with a “what would you give up to get your internet back” poll I was surprised to feel that marketer’s wet dream, brand loyalty, stirring within me.

[Note – O2’s team have been in touch denying any awareness of Three’s problems at the time of the poll… while this can’t be proven either way, if it is true, they certainly got caught with their pants down, see my response to their comments, below.]

I’d been with o2. You get 2gb a month. Then you’re capped at 50mb a day. That’s about five YouTube videos. If you’re lucky.

Three don’t always provide the fastest service. Their customer service isn’t always the best. And yes, their network does occasionally fall down. But then again, so did o2 last year (for longer) and so did EE (supposedly the best, the fastest… and by far away the most expensive of the bunch).

What Three do is provide a good service at a good price. No service is 100% reliable. You can’t buy a car without it breaking down once or twice.

Of course, you curse the car when it breaks down.

Because that day, you really really needed to get to work or to the shops. But then again you need to get to work or the shops every day. And once your anger has worn off, you remember all the hundreds of times that car has carried you from A to B and been a joy to drive and cheap to run.

And for me, that’s the nirvana of a good product. Something that works well, isn’t necessarily flashy or cutting edge, but is reliable and mostly of good quality and gets the job done. These are the brands that I keep coming back to, time after time after time after time.

There’s a lesson to be learned here.

You don’t have to be the best or the fastest or the most cutting edge to spark a bit of brand loyalty. You just have to get your customers from A to B in an economical, efficient way.

Not every brand can be Rolex. But hey — not everybody can afford a Rolex or would pay for one even if they could. My 25 year old Braun cost me fifty quid and loses about two and a half seconds in a year and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

Evidently, I’m not the only person who thinks the same way.

When o2 launched their opportunistic Facebook poll poking fun at Three’s mobile data outage, the only people laughing were the people laughing at o2. They were inundated by negative feedback. Because we all remembered the fact that their service was knocked out for days last year. And most of us former customers remember how much more expensive they are… how much less they deliver, and how much more they charge.

So their Facebook wall was inundated with reminders. Reminders about their shoddy service and their high prices. Their snide little remarks came back and bit them on the arse.

I’d link you to the Facebook post, but for some strange reason o2 decided to delete it.

Three mobile aren’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Their customer support is weak (although thanks to the team who spoke to me on Twitter today!), their sales teams are somewhat aggressive (ever tried to cancel a Three contract?) and their network isn’t aways the fastest or the best.

But they provide a reasonably priced product that gets you from A to B. Unlike the other phone operators, they don’t hide hidden charges in their contracts (Are you listening to me, Vodafone? Promising “unlimited” internet then limiting me to a piss-poor 500mb in the small print as “reasonable use”?). But what they do is offer unlimited data and tethering on a rolling contract for £25 a month.

Three’s service isn’t perfect. Then again, neither is life.

On what’s been a fairly shit day for Three, handling barrages of angry tweets and negative press, I’d like to say thanks. I rely on your service at work and at play and it’s head and shoulders above the rest. It’s the best £25 I spend every month.

I’m glad o2’s Facebook stunt proved other people feel the same way too.


Edit – Now with added screencap of the poll.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 at 9:02 pm and is filed under Blog, Digital, Social Media, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


  1. I’m Chris and I’m a content manager in the O2 social media team. I’m the guy who both posted and removed the Facebook poll you’ve mentioned here. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on it, I hope this reply will help to clarify few things.

    On 4 June our parent company, Telefonica, announced the launch of the FT-Telefonica Millennials Summit. The summit introduced the findings of the world’s largest ever global survey of 18-30-year olds, focusing largely on their attitude towards (and dependence upon) technology.

    When I posted the poll on our Facebook page, the news of Three’s network problems hadn’t yet broken widely, so I’d not heard about it. The poll (which read ‘Imagine not being able to access the internet for a prolonged period of time. What would you give up to get online?’) was one of the questions included in the survey for the Millenials Summit, and linked to our news item which gave more information about the findings and the event itself.

    I can assure you that, having been part of the team who dealt with the social media fallout from our own network problems last year, there’s no way I would ever advocate poking fun at any network provider under those circumstances. In fact, had I known about the problems they were having when I posted it, it’s unlikely that the poll would’ve gone out.

    But I didn’t, and it did… which leads me on nicely to why I eventually deleted it.

    Given the timing and circumstances, it was easy for people to misconstrue the poll as being a dig at Three and, without noticing the link at the end of the title, be understandably annoyed that one network could to that to another – particularly given our own problems over the last 12 months. As you mentioned, there were a number of comments from people who’d done just that and expressed their disappointment in us.

    We tried a few times to explain the actual rationale behind the post, but they became quickly buried beneath more comments from disappointed readers who’d misinterpreted the post. Eventually, I deleted the poll with a view to re-posting at a time when it’s less likely to be misunderstood and linked to any external current events.

    I agree that the timing of the poll turned out to be quite poor, but I hope this explanation goes some way towards assuring you that it was indeed an unfortunate coincidence, rather than a malicious jab at a competitor – that’s something we’d never do.

    Best regards,
    O2 Social Media Team

  2. Thanks for contributing, Chris. Your input is much appreciated and welcome.

    I’m pleased the timing was accidental although I’d question your claim that the problem with the Three network was widely unknown at the time of your post.

    Three went down in the evening of June 3rd and it was being tweeted at a rate of hundreds of tweets every few minutes by half eight the next morning. You don’t need me to tell you it’s your job to keep a close eye on the competition. Considering the poll wasn’t removed until the early evening of June 4th, you’re effectively admitting you got caught with your pants down… that poll should have been removed much earlier in the day.

    More important, though, is even if you were unaware of the problem with 3, why would you put a poll like that up when O2’s network went down for 24 hours less than a year ago?

    Surely someone on your team must have thought “hang on, a lot of people are still angry about this, maybe we shouldn’t post anything to social that alludes to mobile service being inaccessible, because it will attract a barrage of criticism…”

    PS – I’ve added a screen cap of some of the negative comments. Many of the comments focus on the low data allowance that O2 provides — and it’s Three’s unlimited data allowance that makes me so loyal to them as a brand, which was the ultimate point my blog article was trying to make — that good value goes a long way, even if the service isn’t always perfect.

    Thank you for your comments and for putting across your point of view.


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