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Maxis’ Sulin Lau on rethinking telco marketing  

It has been a year since Maxis announced a major rebranding, both internally and externally of the entire company.

Morten Lundal, chief executive officer of Maxis, said at the announcement of the rebrand: “This is still just the beginning of our journey. We are diligently going through the list of things to improve, which involves an end-to-end review of all processes, policies, products, customer touch-points, communication and insights, so we can provide what we and our customers define as a truly ‘great experience’.”

Fast-forward to a year later, and many changes have taken place.

In June, Maxis said it would invest at least RM 1.1 billion or $284 million as capex to complete its network modernisation, drive the 4G LTE expansion, as well as improving capacity and quality.

Maxis said its 4G LTE coverage reached 41% of the population and covered key market centres and state capitals. The target is to reach over half of the Malaysian population by year-end, according to Telecom Lead.

It’s no secret that with the internet age, the old telco model is coming under threat.

This means major changes. In short, Sulin Lau, head of marketing services at Maxis, sums up its overall new direction this way: “We have to be more agile, move faster and break things, attract start-up-mindset people away from start-ups, embrace experiments (and be OK if they don’t always work). In short, (we have to be) everything a telco isn’t.”

One of the key ways to initiate change is to draw in the right talent.

Some of the company wide changes the firm did in the past year included changing its reporting structure and culture. For example, moving to a flatter organisation structure, where there are only five levels of reporting lines between a fresh grad and the CEO. The firm has done away with cubicles and offices. No one in Maxis has their own office, not even the CEO.

Of course, this applies to changing the dynamics of its marketing team as well. Lau talks about pushing for more diversity in her team. While a year ago, she describes the team as having been more of a classic marcomms and branding team – her 35-person strong marketing team today consists of a diverse staff with varying skills: data and insights, content, social influence and more.

This, in turn, means a change in Maxis’ marketing strategy. She talks about having a digital-first, customer-centric way of thinking.

“Digital comes first in terms of how we think about spending, and how we measure our efforts,” she said.

“The days when digital and social are adapted from a press ad are thankfully over.”

For example, the success of any ground event now will be measured not in what happens on the ground, but in online shares and views.

“So even event people start thinking in terms of shareable content and conversations.”

There are a number of reasons traditional marketing methods won’t work for telcos anymore.

“Telco brands are generally (in)famous for outlandish claims and consistent under-delivery, wrongful charging and slippery T&Cs,” she said.

“We acknowledge that telco customers have been trained to always view traditional advertising claims with extreme scepticism.

“Thus, the challenge this year is to find new formats of communication that better represent the brand’s humanity, truth and sincerity.

“And of course, we can only promise things that we are 100% sure that we can deliver,” she added, referring to the campaign Maxis did where chief technology officer Morten Bangsgaard underwent a series of life threatening situations to test the network in three key areas – namely download speeds, loading time for popular websites and YouTube streaming.

Watch the video here:

“All telcos everywhere are trying their best not to be relegated to a dumb pipe. Our brand challenge in Maxis is this: how do we transform our brand purpose, our products, our people, our partners and fundamental ways of working in order to surf this tidal wave of internet change.”

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