It is one of those devices that many of us have and use daily, however how much do we consider the power of branding when it comes to choosing our mobile phone network provider?
The market is saturated now in the UK with EE, O2, Vodafone and Three all the main networks in the market and alongside these are MVNO's such as Tesco, Virgin, Asda, Giff Gaff and soon to be Plusnet Mobile to name just a few. Firstly what is the difference between a main network and an MVNO? Simply the later actually don't own any physical infrastructure and just rent capacity from the main networks. For example, Tesco Mobile actually uses the O2 network. So if you are a Tesco Mobile customer even though your phone says Tesco and you pay your monthly bill to Tesco, your phone is actually connecting to your nearest O2 mast. If O2 does not have coverage, then neither will Tesco Mobile.
This is a market where brand personality is clearly evident in some of the providers. You only have to look at EE to establish that this is a premium and quality brand that is positioned to appeal to the more affluent user or the typical customer who values a quality service. You could suggest that the brand is aimed at exactly the same sort of customer who Apple or Samsung are chasing with their higher end products.
With this being the case the owners of EE, BT have kept a secondary MVNO called Life Mobile operating. Life Mobile was very much pitched at a different target market and had a totally different brand personality. For example just looking at the Life Mobile website you would quickly identify that it was a brand with a personality which is associated with value and budget. This is the total opposite end of the market to what the brand of EE is targeting and something that was evidence of this was how Life Mobile only offered 2g/3g access, where as EE customers get the premium service of the availability of super fast 4g access and other additional perks such as Wi-Fi calling and access to music and sport.
Why is this all so interesting? Well BT have clearly made the decision to close down Life Mobile and merge it into a new venture, Plusnet Mobile. You may be asking why are they creating a new venture and merging an existing brand into this? Well some business people could argue this is because the Life Mobile brand will have little value and customer loyalty, whereas the Plusnet brand is already well know and will have quite a large amount of intangible asset value and customer loyalty. It will also enable BT to maybe shift the brand personality and target market slightly from that which Life Mobile had established. The Plusnet brand tends to be viewed as good value and quality, which could maybe enable BT to start to mop up more of this lower to middle end of the market? This could also be a strategy by BT to ensure that EE retains its premium brand image and its a clear distinctive message and brand image between the two.
What makes this even more interesting is the development of BT mobile as a brand. This has many features that appear similar to Plusnet, however Plusnet at the moment is more basic and simple. The marketing and branding world could start to question if this is a good move on the face of it? The difference in the brand images and personalities are not that great, however maybe over time this will be developed so that each of the brands has a clear distinctive target market and image.