In uncertain times, it is more important than ever to share experience, insights and advice with your peers so we can all learn from one another. With this in mind, we are having conversations with members across various sectors to understand how themselves and their teams have been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, what they have learned from it and how they continue helping their customers.

For this week’s instalment in the series we’ve chatted to Aislinn O’Connor, Director of Marketing UK & Ireland at Three.


MII: Hi Aislinn, can you tell us about how have you been adapting your marketing activities during the COVID-19 outbreak?

As a telecommunications provider, we are core to people staying connected through these times. When Covid hit we focused on doing everything we could to make things easier for our customers. This resulted in the implementation of various customer focused initiatives such as the removal of usage limits from our All You Can Eat data plans. This meant that our customers could use their data endlessly without any fair usage terms and conditions, a first for any telco in Ireland. We later amplified this message in our TV spot Monster Hunter, filmed by the cast themselves on iPhones. We got a great reaction to this spot, in no small part down to the heart-warming performance from the little boy and his on-screen grandad. As well as being turned in to a rather funny meme that did the rounds in WhatsApp, the ad was also the subject of a priest’s sermon up in Donegal during a virtual mass. Now that’s something none of us anticipated!


How have you been engaging with your team?

My teams, both in Ireland and the UK, have been amazing, producing incredible work from their homes whilst always continuing to put the customer first. Staying connected with them in an informal setting is the most important time in my week. I see the wider team meeting as a fundamental glue holding us all together whilst we work remotely. Plus, I love getting an insight in to what’s happening at home for everyone from kids joining our calls, to learning about recent home DIY projects, new puppies or vegetable growing – we even had a live cooking demo on a team call!


What have you learned from a marketing perspective from COVID 19?

The biggest learning for me was that it is critical to respond in a quick and agile way to changing needs and behaviours.
A good example of how we did this at Three arose when we had to close our stores back in March. Our retail agents have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to connectivity and our customers rely on them daily in our stores to provide advice in this regard. To ensure we continued to provide this essential support for customers while our stores were closed, we launched a tool that allowed our retail agents to provide their expertise to our customers on our website. This online tool has been so successful that we are keeping it for the foreseeable future so that our customers can get that valued advice from the comfort of their homes.

In the UK, we marked the start of our Chelsea sponsorship in July by creating the world’s first virtual jersey launch, allowing the fans to try on the new Three emblazoned Chelsea jersey virtually before it hit the shops. It was a totally unique experience that had never been done before and given the circumstances, doing something virtually was the only approach that made sense. With over two million fans actively engaging with the launch it was a huge success.

With all this talk of reacting in an agile way, I also think that it is important to consider the downside of being purely focused on reacting in a crisis. The long term can be easily put to the bottom of the priority list in a situation such as Covid 19. Given the relevancy of the services we provide at Three and the nature of the Covid restrictions, we made the decision to keep our brand visible from the get-go. We were keen to sustain a presence that would continue to support our brand and business in the medium to long term. Thanks to this and the great work produced by the team, we saw brand KPIs continue to grow throughout.


How have your work practices changed? What will you do differently going forward?

Doing everything remotely as a team naturally means more structure and less small, ad hoc conversations and informal collaboration. These types of interactions are a crucial aspect to successful through the line marketing; letting ideas breathe, getting fresh viewpoints and bouncing ideas around as a team. Making time for this type of collaboration requires more planning now, but if done right, can be as successful as working together in a break-out space in the office.

Like most people, I spend more time in front of a screen than previously. And whilst I am grateful that we can continue to work in such a seamless and super productive way remotely, I’m very much looking forward to the day I can sit around with the team again without a screen.


Has your brand purpose been challenged by COVID 19? How?

We exist as a company to serve our customers and, for Three, that means supporting people through connectivity. We took this responsibility incredibly seriously as 2.4 million customers across Ireland rely on us and our services more than ever this year. Our networks and service teams show their dedication time and time again by moving heaven and earth to ensure experience is the best it can be for our customers.


What brands or businesses have you admired through this crisis?

I have great admiration for small local businesses who are weathering the proverbial storm and serving their local communities through this uncertain time. Shopping local is now of huge benefit to all of us. Our local village store, previously too often over-looked, is now the go-to place for so many day-to-day needs from hardware to homeware to kids’ toys. Hopefully shopping local is a habit that we all keep when things get back to normal.

From a brand perspective, avoiding all the obvious and widely discussed Covid responses (well done again to An Post!), there are few examples that have lingered in my mind.
Maltesers’ Isolation Life series made me laugh. The executions were human, natural and a refreshing take on advertising based on group video calls.
Another great example is that of Ikea. They shared their famous meatball recipe so fans of the dish traditionally served in their shop’s cafés could get their fix at home whilst stores were closed. It simply struck me as a clever way of keeping their brand top-of-mind whilst their doors were shut. Plus, the recipe was delivered in typical Ikea instructions style, illustrations and all. Pitch perfect.