Magazine article Marketing

Profile: A Numbers Game

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: A Numbers Game

Article excerpt

Marc Allera, sales and marketing director at Three, hopes smartphones will help the brand double its market share. Interview by Alex Brownsell.

This is the moment that Marc Allera, sales and marketing director at Three, has eagerly awaited for nearly a decade. Since joining the mobile operator in 2001, and subsequently taking on the top marketing role three years ago, the 38-year-old has sought to convince a sceptical public of the possibilities of mobile internet. Operators have promised for years that accessing the web on the move will change our lives, but many early adopters forced to squint at tiny colour screens on the first 3G phones responded with indifference.

Only since the introduction of the iPhone, and the development of rival smartphones from RIM and Nokia, have mobile users bothered checking their Facebook and Twitter feeds on the go.

Yet the transformation has been stark - Allera says that over the course of the past four years, mobile internet use has rocketed, going from accounting for 3%-4% of Three's network traffic to 98%.

'At times, we have been doing this by ourselves,' he says. 'Maybe consumers weren't ready. If we're honest, the devices weren't necessarily in place. The network wasn't in the best of places either - and it's difficult to build a category by yourself. Yet it feels as if everything has clicked into place in the past 18 months. That's great for everyone. People have finally got what we've been talking about.'

Changing perceptions

Now that consumers are prepared to listen to Three, Allera's priority is to ensure that its brand conveys a message that boosts sales Unfortunately for him, many people still remember the patchy network coverage that blighted Three in its early days, despite all the company's efforts to match the performance of its more established rivals.

Earlier this year, Three completed the installation of an additional 50sq km of network coverage, a fact that Allera felt worthy of publicising with a major inegrated ad campaign. The mock-80s Hollywood movie trailer clips, created by glue Isobar, carried the tagline 'Bringing you an even better network'.

The pounds 7m push aimed to give consumers an insight into the 'mammoth task' carried out by Three employees, according to the former Sega marketer. 'We have a perception challenge to overcome - a legacy from years ago,' he says. 'We could have left it as an engineering task, but have embraced it as a marketing challenge. We've got a job to do to keep convincing the market, and have done a good job so far.'

Allera claims that, since the start of the campaign in May, the brand has enjoyed one of the most successful periods in its history. However, this may have been less to do with the ads, and more with the fact that Three, somewhat belatedly, became able to offer Apple products. Although the marketer denies that its lack of iPhone options damaged Three, he admits that it held the brand back at a vital moment.

'There is no doubt that not having the iPhone made it harder to grow It's one of the most popular devices on the planet - and we didn't have it.' Allera adds that Apple now considers Three a 'key partner' in the UK and intends to share new products with the operator.

Another crucial launch for Three has been its smartphone price plan, which it hopes will win over millions of prospective users over the next year.

The One Plan, a two-year contract that offers customers 2000 any-network minutes, 5000 Three-to-Three minutes, 5000 texts and a 1GB internet data allowance per month, was introduced with a heavyweight print and outdoor push over the summer. …

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