As part of the WARC x Spotify “Getting your brand heard” report, Maria Koutsoudakis, Brand and Marketing Director at Vodafone discussed how the industry is adapting to changing consumer behaviours and the ways in which Vodafone leverages the strengths of audio.

Headshot of Maria Koutsoudakis

Maria Koutsoudakis, Brand and Marketing Director, Vodafone

What are the main types of goals that you're looking to achieve through your marketing and advertising?

We split our communication plan into three – brand love, proposition and demand generation. Demand generation is about quality traffic, phone calls and footfall leading to sales. We look at it from a cost-per-acquisition and sales lens but also judge ourselves on traffic. It’s about understanding ‘Are we getting the right traffic, is that converting?’

Next is the proposition. This is about talking to an audience who is closer to the purchase decision. In our category this is about 25% to 35% of the consumer base. They are 2-3 months out from renewing or purchasing a new mobile or broadband contract. Our goal here is to drive consideration and deeper consideration.

The final is brand love, and this speaks to all audiences. This is about building affinity and consideration for Vodafone, whether they are a customer, potential customer, active or passive in the market. This is about reach, and brand affinity.

How do things like scale and targeting factor into your goals and considerations?

At a brand love level for Vodafone’s broadband, and particularly for a category where most people would engage, we go quite broad with mediums like TV.

As you get to proposition, you're looking for a more in-market audience. TV is a bit more difficult to target versus other channels. But then, we try to find those people, particularly in digital, who are showing an indication of being interested in the category or are about to be interested. And then when you get to demand generation, that's where you need to be really specific; you’re now looking for people who are actively seeking. Hence, it’s those digital cues and targeting within digital channels to show they're actively in the market. The messages are broader, making the targeting broader as you go down that funnel.

What are some of the practical processes that your team undergoes to select their media plan? And how are they looking to optimise?

We have three levels of insights we use to optimise our media. At a strategic level we use the ROAS learnings from Ebiquity to understand if our choices, channels and communication are paying back and driving growth for the business. At the middle funnel we look at things like MTA to understand the role each channel plays. On a daily basis the team optimise against measurable KPIs and these vary from CPA’s to SOC, CPMs etc depending on the campaign.

So its about strategic data driven selection of the channel, and then in the moment optimisation against specific KPIs.

Is part of your budget geared towards experimentation and innovation around certain channels? How does that play out in terms of identifying where to experiment and measure?

We have a 70-20-10 division. We spend 70% driven by our MMM learnings. We are pretty certain that that money is going to deliver and how it’s going to work.

We focus 20% against future scale but on learnings that will fuel the next 70%. The team will come up with opportunities regardless of whether it’s demand generation, proposition or brand love. It’s about what we can learn and if we could take the learning and make it scalable. If that learning works, it becomes a part of the next 70%.

The remaining 10% we spend on gut instinct things that we think sound cool. One of our brand KPIs is upping the modernity of the Vodafone brand. We look for opportunities to experiment on new and innovative ideas. These may fail, as often as they create fame.

Consumer behaviours have changed, especially over the last three years. What are the particular things which telcos need to adapt to faster?

The shape of the markets has changed. I believe telco has been a flat, predictable industry.

However, the pandemic has changed its rhythm, routine and history. We are rebuilding our understanding of the rhythm for the market and where people are moving about now. With Covid, traditional retail was open-close-open-close and now, we’re dealing with a cost-of-living crisis due to the Ukraine War. It’s about not having market predictability that we used to have. Now, we have to ensure agility.

How does the 70-20-10 model feed into your preferred media channels? And why are those your preferred media channels?

We choose our media channels depending on the strategy,  message, the job and our MMM modelling teaches us. We blend our knowledge with our agency's strategic input to come up with the strongest plan.

Within this they will plan 70-20-10 on all big initiatives. The profile of the media behind each of the campaigns will change according to the campaign. This will also dictate where we test to learn for scale (20%) and where we experiment for fame (10%). 

What role does audio play in your current marketing mix? And how does it complement some of the other things that you've mentioned?

We’re a pretty big spender on audio. The medium returns well from a telco perspective. It’s also an easier medium in some ways, creatively, because we're not a visual product. We find that radio works really well for us on promotions and purpose-based communication levels. We also know it’s a flexible medium. We continue to invest in and learn across different messaging and plan the channel as a channel and not only through a campaign lens. We need to ensure we can get the right creative to make it work. You can't get away with bad radio. For us it’s a very good reach channel.

A few years ago, we introduced Red Entertainment where customers got free Spotify included in their plan. At the time, we talked about a radio execution around ‘If you were a Vodafone Red Entertainment customer, you won't have to hear this ad’, interrupting their experience with a Vodafone ad around Spotify. It was a contextual placement.

Attention is a huge watchword and topic in the industry. How do you think that plays into what audio can do for a brand?

Radio has broad reach and therefore gives brands a large “viewable” platform for their messages to land. The key for a brand in this is creative. How we hook the passive listeners attention, so they hear our message, and how we plan our radio campaigns (message and frequency) so we are not seen to detract from their listening experience.

What do you see as audio’s strengths, weaknesses or unique qualities, especially within the European telco market?

Radio gives us reach, and an ability to talk about our invisible product in a non visual way, which can be easier. So for us creatively it's often easier to talk about our benefits than visualise them – which makes radio a perfect creative medium. The flip side is exactly the opposite, an invisible product like ours needs visualisation to give it scale and fame – that’s hard to do with words. So it's all about the balance.