telcwho? Filling the void of meaning.
Trends and Implications of the Berlin Telco Summit 2010
As consumer power is gaining momentum and the democratization of technology is revealing the limits of our current infrastructure, Telco Companies have a great opportunity to shape their identities by filling the void of meaning. These are the key findings of the Berlin Telco Summit 2010.
The participants of this year’s summit – 19 brand and communication strategists from 12 countries – discussed current developments in 15 different markets around the world ranging from India to Mexico. The global strategists identified two areas of conflict that Telecommunication brands should address by clearly positioning themselves, in order to meet the enormous challenges and remain relevant in people’s lives:
Consumers in Power versus Limits of Consumer Power
The growth of consumer power and freedom in the realm of Telecommunication is reflected through several developments. Most obvious is a higher degree of flexibility in terms of tariff plans, allowing consumers to tailor their own tariffs and releasing them from minimum contract terms. In the case of the UK brand giffgaff, which was launched by o2 last year, customers are even turning into the brand’s marketing managers. Smartphones and Social Media Networks are transforming into platforms for people to start their own business and to share and spread their opinion publicly.
However, there are still limits to consumer power. In many cases co-creation is reduced to advertising and communication. And the restriction of consumer power goes even further with some powerful brands establishing themselves as gatekeepers and censors such as Apple, which hit the headlines after banning certain apps from its App store, dictating what is appropriate or not.
Beyond, Social Media and Telecommunication bear great risks and dangers, with millions of people sharing their entire lives with the public, however sometimes too much of it or in a highly addictive way. And these days Social Media is unfortunately not only an agent for positive social and economic change, but also a powerful tool for the evil.
Democratization of Technology versus Limits of Technology
Smartphones and mobile Internet become available to the masses, thanks to attractive financing concepts, affordable data plans and handsets. Also many services are available to more people, e.g. pedestrian navigation, which is increasingly offered for free.
However, the process of democratization of technology poses huge challenges to Telecommunication Companies, especially in terms of infrastructure and data volumes. Thus, network quality has become a big issue again in markets with high smartphone penetration. It is picked up in communications and fuels the current trend of improving basic services and products.
These trends and observations result in two major challenges for the telecommunication industry:
Meaning is Fundamental.
Telco Companies need to develop a clear point of view of what they want to be and what they want to stand for – in the long-term, to avoid turning into replaceable commodity providers and to escape from the ongoing price competition.
Becoming more meaningful can be achieved in various ways e.g., by focussing and thus being able to champion in a few things, such as products or services, rather than averaging in many. Meaning can also be created by being good and acting as responsible corporate citizen, such as the brand “idea” in India, which addresses subjects like education, caste or health that are highly relevant to the Indian society. In order to become more meaningful, Telcos also need to redefine their relationship towards people, acknowledging and leveraging consumer power instead of restricting it and thus turning it into something that is beneficial for both, brands and people.
Innovation is Future.
To avoid losing ground to new competitors from other in