Leapfrog the status quo.

The smartphone is the hub of digital life. Offering an app for virtually every need, want + task and instant connection to people + answers anytime, anywhere, its dominance doesn’t stop online. With the increasing prevalence of the Internet of Things, the smartphone’s utility extends into the offline world as well. It is the default remote. It captures life’s moments. It wakes us up and helps us goes to sleep. It keeps us warm. Keeps us safe. Lets us pay and get paid. And gets us to where we need to be.

The stickiness and value of a connected life will be far too strong for a significant number of people to have the will or means to disconnect.

It’s the ever-present. And it’s become of the fulcrum of the telecommunications universe. Everything revolves around this digital life staple.

infographic noting US consumers are looking at their phones more than 9 billion times a day and smart phone sales are up 10% year over year
The risk of commoditization.

As tech continues to exponentially evolve, so does consumer expectation. Things once benefits or novel offerings are now basic table stakes. The result in telecommunications has been a race for value and reactive me-too offerings. While brands are spending more in effort to get more share-of-voice and share-of-wallet, in a value-driven environment, consumer loyalty becomes fickle—bestowed upon those that can make the lowest margins work at the moment. But this isn’t working for everyone.

Brands that want to win against the competition, and the bottom line, must seek differentiation beyond the feature-and-benefit war and jump in with both feet into purpose, culture and consumer advocacy.

Bar Graphic showing rise in U.S. digital ad spend in the Telecommunications from 2011 to 2017 in Billions. 2011 3.83 2012 4.31 2013 4.82 2014 5.33 2015 5.83 2016 6.3 2017 6.69 while average revenue is down 2% over the same time period


Strategy Overview

As a regional wireless provider, how does iWireless increase customer acquisition and retention against the pressure of national goliath competitors? By making a statement in the market instead of being a watered-down me-too brand in the shadow of its larger competitors.

Business Objectives

  • Increase customer acquisition.
  • Increase brand awareness and preference.
  • Create partnership efficiencies + optimize marketing budget.


iWireless was an undifferentiated, transactional brand using promotion as a means of customer retention. In 2013 they were also launching into Iowa’s largest consumer market, Des Moines, where they had no brand awareness and was previously held exclusively by their T-Mobile affiliate. On top of that we had two sub-brands with distinct issues and challenges:

Call out box left column iWireless promotional WIP infrastructure value-based unclear position value contract-based right column Megatalk poor performing transactional discount high rate of consumer churn and pay-in-advance


Provide consumers the freedom and ease to choose what is best for them.

  • Reposition sub-brands as options under one entity.
  • Make brand relevant to a younger consumer target.

Transform iWireless into a solution-oriented, relationship-based brand launching with a big bang in Des Moines and surrounding markets.


Free Ned Campaign

Audiences demand choice. Technologies have granted them the choice to define their lives on their terms—whether it is customized clothes, music, food, technology or how they portray themselves to the world in social media profiles.

However, when we first started working with iWireless (before the No-Contract Revolution) this same freedom and flexibility hadn’t yet made its way into the wireless world. Wireless customers were being held hostage by their wireless providers without the opportunity to find plans, costs, contract options, features and handsets that meet their own personal needs, expectations and lifestyles.

By defining and delivering on the overall brand promise of freedom & flexibility in choosing what is best for you, the “Free Ned” campaign sought to call out the absurdity of competitors’ inconvenient cell plans by portraying a customer who had actually been kidnapped by his rigid, no frills, financially binding contract. 

Ned Frees Others TV



Like every other category out there today, consumers are no longer willing to put up with painful experiences, overspending or products + services that don’t cater to their needs. Businesses that solve problems for them and model solutions after their habits + usage patterns win.

Infographic noting that 86% of buyers will pay more for better CX, 50% of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn't their needs and that by 2020 CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator


Asterisk Campaign

Later, we rallied consumers to stop dealing with dumb asterisks.

About six months after the launch of our “Free Ned” campaign, T-Mobile launched its “Uncarrier” campaign.

Post-pay and pay-in-advance markets all over were merging to a “no contract” center. In the case of pay-in-advance, customers pay for the minutes they want—without a contract. And post-pay customers are now able to buy phones on an installment basis while getting billed monthly for their service.  In both cases, service contracts are a thing of the past.

It was time for a pivot.

We continued to focus on providing consumers the freedom and ease to choose what is best for them—no catch.


Hot Water TV
Data remains king.

Data is not only first and foremost with consumers, but also presents great opportunity to telecommunications advertisers. With the commoditization of services, leader and dark horse brands alike are using data for targeted advertising as a way to not only utilize traffic, but also monetize it. People-based advertising singularly focused on individual user wants and needs establishes immediate familiarity. Familiarity breeds trustability. Trustability drives preference. Preference drives sales.


Real Deal Campaign

We then ramped up to focus on the tech that matters to consumers: Data and voice services that are high quality, reliable and affordable.

Many consumers continued to feel duped by their cell plans—like they weren’t getting all they were promised or that a limited budget meant limited freedom of choice.

We wanted to show them that iWireless offers truly unlimited high-speed 4G LTE data plans, the latest handset technologies, plus Iowa’s fastest 4G LTE network and nationwide coverage with T-Mobile. No compromises.

Key Message

All the things you can do without limits with iWireless.

Proof Points

  • Fastest 4G LTE network in Iowa.
  • Truly unlimited data plans = no data caps, no throttling, no overages, worry-free.
  • Most high-speed 4G LTE data for your dollar.
Angry Abe TV
You can’t get ahead if you’re not looking around the corner.

While immediate success is dependent on positioning that favors high quality, reliable and affordable data and voice service, there exists opportunity for competitive differentiation via operations: customer care, sales and billing.


Chatbots are becoming a familiar way for consumers to interact with brands. Digital natives especially are more comfortable with the technology—even if it can, at the present, prove somewhat frustrating.

Infographic noting that 1 in 4 consumers use a chatbot daily, 83% of consumers say they would be more loyal to a brand for offering a chatbot that helps them accomplish their tasks

Social Customer Service

It’s undisputed that social media has transformed how marketers engage with customers in the last decade. Yet only in the last few years have brands really begun to leverage the medium in support of an omni-channel experience.

Infographic noting that one It's predicted that by 2020 90% of companies will be using social media for customer service and two companies with a well-crafted social customer service approach experience 92% customer retention.

Everything is a Play to 5G.

Global telecomm leaders believe that the aggressive promotion of 5G will secure them new customers. Given that “mobile” 5G will at first do nothing more than provide a bandwidth boost, the promise of more speed, greater efficiency and less latency once in market could fall flat and fast with consumers. Accordingly, for all the hype about expansion into new value-added service areas, operators, at least for the moment, continue to put the marketing artillery in the connectivity fight.

That doesn’t mean consumers won’t react, though. Early adopter targets, seeking the latest phone or other connected device will, no doubt, want the latest and greatest mobile service—especially if the neighbors already have it—haloing tech leadership positions for those that own 5G before their competitors, even if only in the mind of consumers.