Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Big Talker - Tristia Clarke, Marketing Director, Carphone Warehouse

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Big Talker - Tristia Clarke, Marketing Director, Carphone Warehouse

Article excerpt

Located in a North Acton business park, Carphone Warehouse's vast headquarters provides an unglamorous setting for the launch of group chief executive Charles Dunstone's big idea.

TalkTalk is Carphone Warehouse's answer to BT's dominance in the home phone market. By offering free local, national and international calls between its customers, the company hopes to establish itself as the number-one alternative to BT.

Tristia Clarke, marketing director and TalkTalk visionary, is unsurprisingly enthusiastic about the initiative, which she has been living and breathing since returning from maternity leave last September. This is typical of Clarke, according to Ben Slater, Carphone Warehouse account director at its advertising agency, Clemmow Hornby Inge (CHI).

'She epitomises the entrepreneurial spirit of Carphone Warehouse in that she's totally committed and passionate about every aspect of what she does. But she always has a clear view of the bigger picture,' he says.

Clarke, 31, was responsible for the soft launch of TalkTalk a year ago. Despite a TV campaign starring Maureen Lipman, TalkTalk's initial roll-out was deliberately low-key and was not intended to have a major impact on the market.

'It was meant to be a toe in the water,' explains Clarke. 'We had all the right elements in place, so we wanted to see whether we could extend what we've done in the mobile market to fixed-line.'

Intentions aside, the soft launch of fixed-lines services did achieve an impact; TalkTalk has already signed up more than 400,000 customers, demonstrating to Dunstone that customers were prepared to leave BT and sign up to TalkTalk.

'We had the brand potential, the network, the stores and the staff, so all we had to do was decide how to grow TalkTalk even further and take on BT,' says Clarke.

The idea of offering free calls for life was hit upon during a typical Carphone Warehouse brainstorming session. 'We were all sat there with a blank piece of paper, knowing what we had to do but unsure how we could do it,' admits Clarke.

Having persuaded the finance director that free calls for life were not only possible but also viable in business terms, the decision was made to overhaul TalkTalk and take on BT by launching Carphone Warehouse's biggest-ever advertising campaign.

Created by CHI, the campaign, which broke last week, needed to be deliberately different to other fixed-line advertising as, according to Clarke, voice calls are 'quite dull and incredibly rational'.

'We had to come up with a new approach and provide a big theme that would make people notice and create a sense of community,' she adds. …

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