New operators in the field of mobile telecoms have their work cut out when entering such a competitive marketplace. Fickle consumers switch between different providers to get the best deals, with little consideration to brand loyalty.
When Giffgaff appeared on the scene in November 2009, it positioned itself as a different sort of mobile operator. While staff call centres and large advertising campaigns are common features of the industry, Giffgaff's consumer approach saw the network embrace social media and the democratisation of the web in an effort to spread its message.
Giffgaff's name, comes from an ancient Scottish word that roughly translates as "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours", or more eloquently "mutual giving". Giffgaff's corporate structure such as it is, involves customers helping each other, and spreading the concept of Giffgaff to new users. GIffgaff users receive financial rewards on their call credits each time they recruit another user, or help another user with an enquiry or technical difficulty.
While a community based corporate structure works well for consumers, it does mean that marketing campaigns present special challenges. Community members had to remain at the heart of the campaign, and a strategy was required that could grow organically, and use fun and creativity in place of an advertising budget.
Put simply, the Giffgaff team's challenge was to enable, incentivise and encourage a fun social media campaign that could be executed and spread by its customers.
To achieve this, Giffgaff created the tools needed for customers to advertise the mobile service using their own ideas. A "tool hire" section of the Giffgaff website inspired customers to create humorous video clips as they engaged with members of the public in a more direct guerrilla style. From the site, users could hire one of 13 tools to use in a video that could then be posted to YouTube or Vimeo.
With Giffgaff's unconventional branding, it was to be expected that the marketing tools would be slightly more unusual than a stack of posters and leaflets. Giffgaff marketers could hire the "pink gimp" of "cuddle monster" costumes and anyone looking to live out their super-hero fantasy could dress up as Captain stress-relief. Costumes and gadgets were chosen to stimulate positive responses from the public.
Video producers and actors were incentivised with free calls and texts for a year. Interested customers simply contacted the tool hire department and began their creative adventures.
During the launch period, 146 videos were uploaded to Youtube, achieving a total viewing figure of 477,633 views as of April 09. The scheme was successful in signing up 3000 new Giffgaff community members.
To thank members for taking part, Giffgaff held an awards ceremony of members of the community who submitted videos. Categories included "Funniest video", "Best use of tool" and "Most tweeted video". Category winners received a £5000 cash prize.