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In years past, O2 has been able to express the value of its connectivity at its branded venues and by bringing customers together through its Priority offers on live events and experiences. But with coronavirus wreaking havoc on 2020's gig schedule, the mobile phone network is now exploring new ways to communicate with customers – starting with a little blue robot.

Grasping the opportunity to remind people that its network is there for them during this tumultuous time, last week O2 introduced a new brand positioning that celebrates the importance of connectivity while underscoring O2's commitment to its customers.

"It’s absolutely essential that brands show relevance and empathy to customers right now," says Nina Bibby, O2's chief marketing officer. That's why its latest work introduces a new character called ‘Bubl’ – an endearing little blue robot that Bibby believes is an embodiment of the brand.

 
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To personify how O2's network is to be relied upon, 'You & Me' sees Bubl offering help to various people, be that keeping them entertained as they wait, providing directions, or settling an argument. The ad is intended to convey the various ways O2 helps people stay connected in day-to-day life.

“We wanted to create a connection on an emotional level, to give an empathetic feel while communicating our message," Bibby says. "So we created Bubl as that reliable, engaging character and used him to bring to life many of the ways our network is there for customers."

As a 'connectivity' brand, O2 has a long history of championing live, physical events to bring people together. Last year it launched 'Breathe It All In' which connected its mobile users with local gigs, and as part of the initiative, it partnered with Spotify to recommend the best local shows based on user streaming behaviour using its music ‘Discovery Tool.’ But this year, with the coronavirus pandemic pulling the plug on most events, O2's live event offering has had to go on the back burner. 

As the UK comes to terms with the prospect of live music returning to normal this year looking unlikely, last week O2's 14 venues, which have been shuttered since March, were given a makeover to show passers-by the good times people spent inside the live music hotspots. 

O2 live venues
 
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Working with Creative Debuts, O2 identified home-grown talent in each of its regions, commissioning them to create artwork as part of its ongoing commitment to support local venues. Each local artist was asked to produce their own interpretation of O2's promise 'This Is Just An Interval'. Bibby explains that she wanted to "maintain people's hope and trust that one-day live institutes will be back and we want to show that we'll be there to help our customers enjoy access to it.” Working with O2's distinctive blue, the end results vary from 90s pop culture to comics and graffiti culture.

Beyond its network, one distinctive aspect of the telecoms brand is its exclusive platform O2 Priority which allows its customers to get early access tickets or take advantage of various offers for free events and food. Considering live events are crucial to O2 Priority's allure, how has O2 been coping with nothing to offer its customers in that regard?

Bibby explains that instead of its normal programme of events, O2 has been offering free online exercise classes, streaming subscription discounts with Disney+ and MTV and, during lockdown, partnering with Uber Eats to offer those using Priority £10 off their order. 

“When we first struck the Disney+ deal, we had no idea that Covid-19 was happening," Bibby admits. "But it was great that we were able to offer our customers access to that brand new source of content." 

What the Covid-19 pandemic has taught the O2 team thus far, Bibby says, is to be much more dynamic. "When Covid-19 first hit, we realised that we're going to have to work in a much more agile manner with our agencies going forward. We almost have an ongoing war room with our agencies. Obviously not literally, but we were working together to overcome the difficulties."

As the UK government contemplates tighter rules to slow a surge of coronavirus cases, the chances of gigs and live events making a return in 2020 look increasingly unlikely. But as O2 puts that aspect of its brand on the backburner, now it is siezing the opportunity to show its customers how much they depend on it.