Let the market, not the marketing team, lead the experience

Do you think of yourself as a canary? Or are you more of a racoon? Orange, the network operator, wants to know.

As part of a new service plan promotion it is asking customers to identify themselves with one of four animals representing particular combinations of line rental, voice minutes and texts. Canaries, apparently, like to “keep friends and family close,” and “chirp away all night long.” Racoons, on the other hand, see their phone as “a tool, not a toy,” and get more “fixed line minutes for those important calls.”

Other animals you may like to compare yourself to include the panther and dolphin. Perhaps the latter group includes those who like to use their phone underwater?

Generally speaking I am in favour of any initiative which simplifies the complexity of tariffs and special offers pushed at users. However, this strikes me as an example of a company which has confused making their services easier to understand with gimmicky marketing.

As a customer, Orange’s animal icons and the names of these packages mean nothing to me. I am not a racoon, I don’t even like racoons. Yes, the ‘racoon’ package may meet some of my usage requirements, but the marketing spin adds nothing to the experience. Rather than seeing this from the customer’s viewpoint, Orange’s marketing team appears intent on playing its own tune: “Hey, look, we’re a cool company, we have cool marketing.”

Here’s the news: price plans aren’t cool. You can’t make customers think you’re a cool company by asking them to pin a badly defined label on themselves. There is a place for marketing techniques which ask customers to identify themselves with particular brand values, but price plans definitely do not fall into this category.

Worse still, the price plans themselves are simple only in name. The combination of fixed line and mobile minutes, texts and special offers is bewildering. It seems Orange’s efforts to enhance the user experience through simplification stalled as soon as they left the marketing department.

The company is doing itself a disservice. Orange has won plaudits in the past for its edgy marketing; ‘the future’s bright, the future’s orange’ was enormously successful for them. While the racoon and his animal friends have got customers talking, it is simply to express confusion as to what it all means. I struggle to see how this will translate into additional sales. I don’t know anyone who is going to respond well to a salesperson patronising them into choosing a price plan on the basis of the animal with which they share the greatest affinity.

This is a prime example of the short-comings of operator-led segmentation. As I discussed in my article ‘Segmentation is step, individualism is the goal‘, grouping customers together on the basis of usage patterns, brand affinity or any other criteria is always going to leave some customers feeling isolated. Users behave in illogical and random ways which are impossible to predict or control. Companies who are servicing those customers should embrace this tendency and provide users with the freedom to define their own experience, one which they feel is personal to them.

These issues will be discussed in detail at the MEX conference on 31st May and 1st June in London. Frederique Bouty of the Experience Co-Creation partnership will deliver a presentation exploring the concept of actively involving customers in the building of their own service experience.

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