O2 – ask not what we can do for you, but what we can hold over you

I was prompted to write this post in reaction to the Bluebook service by O2, which is currently being promoted as part of a 4.5 million GBP campaign across a range of print media including The Observer magazine, Heat, Nuts and Kerrang! matched by banner ads on Facebook and MySpace.

First thing, the fact that anyone using banner ads on Facebook is making a poor marketing decision, in comparison to the price/performance of other vehicles on the site. Widgets would be an ideal way to showcase the service and provide a degree of utility to O2 customers for a reasonable five figure sum, why not speak to the nice people at Techlightenment or Nixon McInnes?

But is it just me or is O2’s Bluebook service a bad product for their customers?

I know what you’re thinking, this blogger chappy, he’s a bit rude and doesn’t understand the mobile phone operator business. But I do, I can completely understand how someone somewhere thinks that having all your SMS and MMS on record is a sticky application that will substantially reduce customer churn whilst allowing you to maximise the average revenue per user (ARPU) by selling premium MMS and SMS services (these offer more of a margin than the data equivalents).

But its not right, its not clever and it shows a lack of respect for the customer. Its not really the way to foster a great long-term relationship.

Let’s break the offering down.

  • Rather than MMS, why not switch customers on to a service like Picassa, Flickr or Photobucket and allow them to use the full amount of mega-pixels on the camera? There’s a great software uploader called Shozu and many of the camera manufacturers have their own version that mobile operators remove or cripple before customers get their handsets. As a mobile operator you’ve got them to upgrade their handset to the latest Samsung / LG / SonyEricsson / Nokia / Blackberry / iPhone its a shame they won’t appreciate the value of it and keep those higher resolution memories safe?
  • Users don’t need to keep hold of every text they’ve been sent: ‘Honey I am on the train, home in 10 minutes’, ‘There’s a chicken curry in the freezer for you, will be home late’ but there is a great service called Treasuremytext which goes beyond merely storing special texts, but has community aspects as well. The service has been around for a few years (it won best community website in Yahoo!’s Finds of The Year in January 2006 when I was still inhouse at the big Y!). They have a new beta version of their service here
  • As for blogging and mobile blogging platforms the world is full of them, and many of the photo services I mentioned early facilitate blog posts wherever the rest of your content is. I’ve blogged from my phone and posted a picture whilst sitting in the departure lounge of HKG and SFO airports – its really easy to do.

So is the real reason that O2 are putting lipstick on the pig of a system that they keep back-ups in the event of an enquiry by the authorities? Probably, but that isn’t the issue, black helicopters and government conspiracies exist get over it.

The issue is that that if O2 put the customer ahead of their myopic world view you’d have happy O2 customers with a richer library of content to treasure and warm fuzzy feelings about their mobile phone company, which is what it is really all about.

4 Replies to “O2 – ask not what we can do for you, but what we can hold over you”

  1. Hi Ged,

    I really find this frustrating.

    I think this looks like the O2 guys handing responsibility to an agency that is probably quite big, creative orientated (which is great!), but doesn’t have a scooby what’s going on today with O2’s target audience, or even what’s out there that existing customers are already using for this purpose. Even the name “bluebook” is a bit daft! The banners would have been put out by another big agency, which really doesn’t have a clue as to how to drive media and acquisition effectively in social networks or social media. We know this as we get asked all the time and are stupified by what we hear!

    Essentially, people don’t like change. The thinking that is being employed, is traditional thinking applied to something that has changed! This will result in more and more brute force with little accountability and the wrong type of measurement of success.

    As you say, the customer or what they do hasn’t figured in any thinking here, just what O2 and their agencies want – which to be honest won’t be achieved whatever it is, without at least having an inkling what the customer wants and perhaps even what the customer is currently doing?!

    Also, let’s think about how the best method of getting innovative products out is done – potentially target those people using existing services with existing userbases, and integrate the campaign in with O2’s service adding value to customers and their friends that already use Facebook for photo’s, MySpace, Flickr etc…

    These people are the innovators in this market, and through diffusion effects (i.e. people see what they do, the fact that it’s of value and follow them – “imitators”).

    The brand will then act as a utility, coach or facilitator adding value to interactions between people, and creating strong value as well as measureable audience growth.

    Probably. But hey, what do I know. Oh well.

    P.S. Thanks for the mention!

  2. Hi Ged,

    When I first saw the o2 BlueBook TV ad I thought I was hallucinating. Having run Treasuremytext for some years now (thank you for the mention), you can imagine my delight, and potential horror at seeing an advert for something that saves your precious SMS memories online, on the telly! The ad is quite cutesy, and I imagine we’d have been very happy with such an advert to describe the sentiment of treasuremytext, in that it is about saving precious memories. (In the old days, at least, now we may go for a more racy ad – many of our treasured messages are relationship based!)

    So anyway, I’ve been watching BlueBook for a while. I’m not a fan; my problem with it is that the product just doesn’t live up to the promise. The ad promises your ‘treasured’ memories online but the application itself under delivers. I imagine it was made quickly with little or no attention paid to creating a useful, or pleasing user experience. Good UX design takes time and talent. That said, many people will use clunky applications if it’s the only thing that does (whatever it is you want to do).

    But you’re right to compare the MMS / Image backup to Flickr + Shozu etc, it’s not just about archiving your content, it is about showcasing it. I’m a huge Flickr fan as they seem to get the balance between private storage and public showcasing right, and they know how to grow community around functionality and content.

    I don’t think it’s all so bad for Bluebook, I have been waiting for someone to offer auto SMS archiving for a long time. And let’s face it a Network Operator in the SMS archiving business really aught to be offering ‘auto archiving’ and not expect its customers to have to save special messages individually (over SMS). I am surprised no one’s done it sooner. However this can only be a useful feature if you design your application really well so that managing the large number of SMS is easy.

    The advertising budget is amazing; and seems a little odd; Flickr doesn’t spend millions of TV ads, instead they grow their user base by investing in making an excellent product. I’m a believer that if you invest in the product, the product is your marketing. Which is pretty much our strategy for growing our loyal Treasuremytext community; but still I wouldn’t mind 4.5 million pounds to promote Treasuremytext!


  3. Do you think it makes sense to build a business model around storage when the market seems to be going the other way?

    Wouldn’t O2 be better off simply creating a better platform on which established blogging platforms (blogger, blogspot etc) or file sharing as you mention Ged (Flickr etc) could operate?

  4. Graham, I personally think that they would be best focusing on making it easy for their customers to use the best existing services out there.

    For instance, if I am posting from my phone to this blog, I usually do it through an email via flickr. But O2 could make that process even easier for their customers via one-click UI buttons with preset processes behind them that then feed out to the best-of-breed services out there.

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