Five minutes with Pamela Brown
Pamela Brown, CMO of Vodafone Smart Tech, speaks to Transform magazine about building powerful brands in the tech centre and, more specifically, about her experience in working on the creation of the Smart Tech branding, from how a brand that has always been centred around telecoms moved into the smart tech space to the strategy used behind driving engagement across the digital side of the brand.
In what ways have you adapted the wider Vodafone branding to create the unique Smart Tech identity?
At Vodafone, we’re constantly looking at how we can connect our customers in new ways, and so earlier this year we built an in-house team of experts across design, product development, and customer insights in the IoT space. We first started out on our branding journey by talking to consumers across four key markets (UK, Germany, Italy and Spain), and it very quickly became apparent that whilst their understanding of concepts like IoT was limited, terms like smart tech / smart devices resonated much more. The proliferation of new products like smart TVs and speakers had led many people to associate smart technology with the big tech brands rather than connectivity providers; with beautifully designed products and seamless end to end experiences forming a central part of that. This insight not only helped build our identity, it was the foundation for our entire brand strategy – from how we showed up creatively, right through to how we designed our products.
So within the wider brand, we launched Designed & Connected by Vodafone, a distinctive new identity which runs across hardware, software and communication. This new brand articulation reflected our smart tech commitment, whilst also providing a refreshed, modern look to drive desirability and cut through to our audiences, building value for the Vodafone brand.
How is Vodafone using its background as a 37-year-old brand centred around telecoms to move into the smart tech space?
Ever since its inception back in 1982, Vodafone has been grounded in connectivity, and as we move further into the tech space there’s a real opportunity to use that heritage to create deeper, more meaningful connections for our customers. Collaborating with leading industrial designers, we’re creating a suite of smart devices and digital experiences, all connected by a world class Vodafone gigabit network. These products are all being united under the goal of fitting seamlessly around our customers lives and helping them to protect what matters most to them.
By combining the global connectivity and scale of one of the world's leading mobile communication providers with the agile entrepreneurship of a team that builds all its products in house, we have a unique opportunity to improve everyday living through smart technology.
What is your strategy for driving engagement and growth across digital and social for Vodafone Smart Tech?
The biggest challenge we face when driving engagement is that we’re working in a relatively new category – so whilst engagement is key, we also have to think about the bigger picture of how we can raise awareness and generate desirability in the first place. To do this effectively we have to start with the consumer and look at how we provide relevance for them. Our creative and digital strategy revolves largely around putting into context how our products can be used meaningfully in people’s lives; whether that’s using our GPS smart tracker, Curve to track the whereabouts of laptop bags, keys and even pets, or helping parents stay connected to their kids.
Our strategy fundamentally involves three key prongs – creating desirability, showing relevance in everyday life and driving understanding. The ability to communicate these messages to specific audiences through film and lifestyle imagery makes digital and social absolutely critical.
How can you create powerful brands in the smart technology sector? How does this sector differ from others?
Working in an emerging category inevitably requires a different approach to marketing in established categories. Rather than promoting something that a customer already has a known need and solution for, you have to first prove that your product solves a problem (the customer may or may not be aware of) in a new, simple but meaningful way.
The smart technology sector is unique in that only a handful of brands have really solved a customer need with their products so far – so there’s real space for innovation if you take the time to understand your customer in its entirety, solve a pain point that’s easily recognisable, and succinctly communicate the benefits of that solution. In a nascent category like this, the job isn’t one of generating brand preference, but demonstrating how common problems can be solved innovatively.
What role does digital, including technology like AR and VR, play in brands within the technology sector?
If we weren’t thinking about technology like AR and VR before, then a global pandemic certainly made sure it was front of mind! During a time like a pandemic, marketers are constantly thinking about new ways to engage and build relationships with customers – and so the use of tools like AR, particularly to build experiences like at-home demos has huge potential. We recently launched Neo, the smart kids watch, a collaboration with Disney, and we are doing some exciting work to help consumers demo the products without having to leave their homes and even in store where they may be unable to touch a product (due to covid restrictions), all customers need to do is scan a QR code from the website.