Marketing Director Simon Valcarcel talks to LBB’s Laura Swinton about the electrifying branding for Volt and the high energy launch campaign from VCCP that’s rooted in customer insight
This summer, Virgin Media and O2 came together under a £31bn merger, to form a telecoms supergroup with the potential to upset the whole UK industry. And just a few months after the deal was formally approved, the team has launched a new product under a whole new brand. Volt is a proposition that promises to bring more speed, data and value to existing Virgin Media and O2 customers.
The launch campaign, created by VCCP, combines an announcement teaser TVC, outdoor advertising and a cheeky Snapchat lens - all with the aim of driving awareness and fame for the merger and the proposition.
Volt’s zippy, speedy branding is also a representation of the speed at which the team had to move. Not only was there the task of figuring out the proposition and brand, there was also the tricky business of bringing two marketing teams together.
According to Simon Valcarcel, marketing director at O2, Virgin Mobile & Virgin Media O2, while there was a team working together ahead of the legal first day of the merger (in accordance with competition laws) to plan what would need to be done, work only started in earnest from June 1st, legal day one of Virgin Media O2.
“There were lots of things we hadn’t been able to talk to each other about, different agencies, all these sorts of things. So really, from June 1st, that was when it began in earnest - two businesses coming together which is really exciting from a marketing point of view certainly - two superbrands coming together, how’s that going to work, how’s the joint venture going to appear above the line," says Simon. “As you can imagine with any change, it’s exciting but at the same time it’s putting two big businesses together. And that’s before you even start talking about bringing the two brands together and thinking about what that looks like from an O2 point of view, from a Virgin point of view. That’s the challenge which I’m looking forward to but it’s exciting.”
In the end, it took the team 139 days to create the proposition, brand and campaign, between the legal day one on June 1st to the campaign launch on October 18th.
From a creative point of view, names can be the trickiest element to get right. However, in Volt, the team has a name that not only conveys speed and energy but which combines both existing brands. And rather than being a drawn-out and agonising process, Simon says the name was reached fairly quickly.
“If you think of all the names that come along with the ideas of fibre and light and speed, volt is just one of those words that already does that. And then quite quickly we realised it had the ‘V’ of Virgin and ‘O’ of O2. From that point it was really, ‘how do we make that happen’?” says Simon. "We’re really happy that we’ve got a wordmark that says what you get with the two brands coming together. One of my personal favourite bits is you’ve got a lightning bolt between the L and the T, kind of like the Fedex hidden arrow. Certainly, I was proud that we could get something like that in there that further enhances the speed and the volt. It was a happy coincidence that when it was there, it really worked.”
In terms of the visual language of the campaign and branding, the creative from VCCP leans into the frisson of the existing brand colours. The Haribo-bright fizz that emerges from the clash of red and blue generates a certain visual spark. There’s something quite zeitgeisty about the superhero branding - Volt could very easily be the name of a souped up speedster joining the Avengers.
“We’re very lucky that blue and red are not similar. It wasn’t like a blue brand and a purple brand. Red is a strong colour on the Virgin side and blue is such an iconic colour on the O2 side, very early on we asked how do we make these two iconic superbrands come together,” says Simon, “Very quickly we realised that what was great about the two colours coming together was that there was a great energy and momentum of the business coming together, supercharging the UK. It came quickly. When the two meet, sparks fly, there’s electricity. It was a very easy creative to sign off and approve because it just made sense.”
Overall, Simon says that the campaign is driven by customer insight, something that he says both O2 and Virgin Media had separately been strong with historically. However, over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, he says that the need to tune into the national mood as well as being sensitive to the changing government regulations really refined their practice.
“It’s certainly something we’ve had to grapple with over the last two years because you have to be sensitive to what people are going through. If people can’t go out and about and we’ve got a mobile proposition, we can’t be showing advertising that says ‘it’s great to be out, come to our Priority gigs’. So, over the past couple of years we’ve had to be very mindful about what the nation’s mood is and we’ve had to have a quarterly insight aligned with the government advice,” he reflects.
“And so that focus on insight and being linked into the mood of the nation: we did that with Virgin Media, we did that with O2 and we’ll continue to do that with Virgin Media O2. You have to otherwise your marketing just becomes irrelevant.”
Simon says that the current outing is a ‘fame-driving proposition’, very much created to catch the eye and quickly and clearly communicate the Volt brand and the coming together of Virgin Media and O2. The 10-second ad will pop up around key TV moments, like The Great British Bake Off and the Champion’s League. He says that 2022 will see the brand roll out a far richer storytelling that’s more human-centric and explores the importance of connection.