O2: the “eye candy” brand extrordinaire

The O2 brand’s bright new 60 second TV ad is an absolute classic example of “sponsored entertainment”.
Beautiful shots of teddy bears, frogs and people passing on a message, and a celebration of the human value of connection, with the new endline of "We’re better, connected". Or, as agency VCCP
describe it, in perfect Hugo-speak,  “A surreal kaleidoscope of connections through all walks
of life – an epic journey of fantasy imagery with symbolic

There no sign of anything specific about why O2 is
better placed than any other brand to connect us. Yup, you guessed it, all
sizzle and zero sausage.

But this is nothing new for O2. Most of their previous TV campaigns have been short on ideas as well, as Justin Holloway eloquently expresses in this week’s Marketing:

“Throughout its short, but successful, life, O2 has had more to show for itself than say. Easy on the eye, but numbing to the emotions. An eye-candy brand for the eye-candy age. All elegantly symbolised by its bubble identity: bright, shiny and hypnotic, but penetrate the surface and then – nothing.”


So how come the brand has been so successful? It was bought for Telefonica in 2005 for £18 billion, a staggering 300% increase in value of vs. the £6billion value of the business when it was spun off from BT in 2001. And it has taken number one position from Orange in the UK.

I think the answer lies in the market in which O2 operates: mobile phone networks. O2 have adapted their brand management to reflect the fact that many of us don’t care much which network we’re with. It’s as low involvement a market as you can find.

What does matter a lot are two things that O2’s visual marketing approach has delivered on:

1. Being top of mind when people go into a store to take out a mobile network contract. Or, as is more likely, go to buy a mobile phone, and need a network to make it work. When the store-person says ‘What network do you want?’, most people in the UK say ‘Err…O2?’ The simple name and highly memorable blue and bubble world mean that the brand is imprinted in our brains, and so its top-of-mind.

2. Making you feel OK about your choice: O2’s sleek, smart brand world also reassures you that once you have signed up, you’re with an OK network. A leader. Modern. Sound, safe and reliable.

What I do wonder is whether the big flashy and expensive TV ads really pay back. The poster campaigns the brand runs, that use the blue & bubbles to market more specific services/sausage, strike me as being much more effective.