These ads R too cool 4U

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Phones 4U’s marketing team has been quiet since it’s £9.5 million ‘Jack’ campaign launched in 2006, featuring the iconic hand gestures and winning the Marketing Society Awards for Excellence in 2008.

The Marketing Society judges decreed that Phones 4U had succeeded in its goals of attracting  younger consumers and simplifying its proposition.

Phones 4U reckons its youth-oriented target market gives it a mandate to create the kind of cheeky campaigns its competitors would not get away with so easily. The strategy to go for people aged 16 to 24 gives the ads a colourful message and presentation, making it stand out from the clutter of advertising within the mobile retail sector.

“It was natural to Phones 4U to target the youth market,” says marketing director Russell Braterman. “Typically 16 to 24-year-olds are technology savvy and have a ‘one-upmanship’ approach as they view handsets as a status symbol. Plus, Phones 4U is a young company. It’s fluid and flexible so it fits within our target audience.

“If you cynically target an audience just because you think they’ll part with their money you won’t engage with them and you’ll come across as inauthentic.”

Braterman claims it is important that Phones 4U differentiates itself in a very competitive market and does not blindly follow communication trends.

The company sees most of its customers as not only young and technology savvy, but opinionated people who respect straight-talking advice.

“They need to be engaged with in a way that they can relate to,” Braterman explains.

“So, we can afford to create innovative, tongue-in-cheek campaigns, which don’t necessarily appeal to our competitors’ customers, who may have appeal to older customers. They cannot afford to take this risk.”

These competitors naturally include fellow high street giant The Carphone Warehouse. Braterman reasons that Carphone cannot emulate the Phones 4U in-your-face type of creativity because of its older establishment target audience. He claims Phones 4U’s audience is typically anti-establishment enabling its campaigns to be controversial.

Carphone’s audience, Braterman says, can be defined as ‘middle England’ – customers who tend to be middle class, older, more conservative and more responsible than Phones 4U’s target market.

“Carphone has a different challenge. How do you speak to ‘middle England’? It’s a broader range of people,” he claims. “We’ve got a clear target market which means we can have a strong personality in the tone of voice. If you’re clear about who you’re talking to, you appeal to them.

“We don’t rely on controversy but the ads are deliberately provocative to make it absolutely clear who we’re talking to.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 442 (June 29, 2009).

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