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Media headlines and viral videos – the method behind Circles.Life’s ‘noisy’ marketing

Singapore’s self-dubbed ‘fourth telco’ Circles.Life has courted quite the number of headlines with its marketing efforts in recent months.

First came the ‘vandalisation’ stunt, which saw viral video duo Youtiao666 deface a ‘competitor’s’ billboard in Bugis station – which was later revealed to be a fake company.

Then there was the ‘Hungry for more data’ outdoor campaign, which faced a public backlash for allegedly trivialising poverty last August.

However, according to Circles.Life marketing manager Megan Yulga, the more noise the better, as the relatively new company attempts to position itself as a major competitor to Singapore’s legacy telcos – Singtel and Star Hub.

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia about the brand’s marketing strategy, Yulga said: “We want to be innovative as a telco, but also with our marketing and we want to stand out from the crowd with all our campaigns. I think of all of my campaigns in terms of PR headlines.  I think: what’s the story and what’s the headline? That’s how we start everything. Why should people care in one sentence.

“Obviously we’re not going out there to offend people. But sometimes when you do, it means you’re grabbing their attention at the same time. But I would be worried if the feedback wasn’t balanced, and everything we have done has so far got balanced feedback. However, if we did do something that triggered a chord, or was totally tone deaf, obviously that’s something we would address.”

On the ‘vandalisation’ campaign in particular, Yulga added: “We did a lot of market research, and we found there was a big gap in the market for limited data plans or a lot of data for not that much money. At this point, we didn’t have the brand awareness that we needed, so we had to make a huge splash and be very noisy, very fast.

“To plug this gap, we wanted to launch this 20GB for 20 dollars product. So we started with the problem – the current data packages. We created a fake telco – the fourth telco – because we didn’t want to specifically hit one competitor, though the data plans were similar to those we felt were inadequate in the market. Then, we went and vandalised them, before revealing we were in fact ‘the fourth telco’. 

“Obviously the reaction was what we planned for, but it was still quite overwhelming. The website traffic was 250 times what it normally is and we originally set ourselves to get three-to-five per cent of the market – and we did that much faster because of this campaign.

“I think people really got it. It really resonated with customers… That’s what I want do more of going forward.”

Founded in May 2016 as Singapore’s first mobile digital telco, Circles.Life has had a rocky road in the 18 months since its launch. Although credited for its data-centric and flexible mobile plans, the company has faced criticism for botching SIM deliveries and for poor customer service. 

However according to Yulga, who previously worked at project management firm PM Group in Singapore, the company invests an “insane” amount of effort into customer feedback and takes their comments “very seriously”. And despite having no shops or storefronts, Yulga said the company still strives to be “physically be in front of people” through market research roundtables. 

Megan Yulga

“We have ears on every part of the journey. We do social listening and we do a lot of manual listening ourselves. We want to physically be in front of people. We have surveys at every touchpoint, from building your plan to your first bill experience because I want to know if we’re dropping the ball at any stage. And yes it is a little insane. But we gain a lot of insights from it: and we have changed our entire strategies and plans from them. We have got quite a lot of public feedback and we take it very seriously. We don’t want to lose any customer.”

Now almost two years on since its launch, Circles.Life is expected to expand into Hong Kong and Indonesia, although no dates have been given as to exactly when. Meanwhile in Singapore, the company is “on track” towards taking a five-per cent share of the mobile market, said Yulga.

She added: “We  had to innovate beyond price point. You can always be the cheapest, but that’s not what’s going to get you customer loyalty. You need to involve them and make sure the experience is so much better.”

For tickets to Mumbrella360 Asia, including Yulga’s panel on ‘Creating loyalty in an age of disloyalty’ visit the event website here. The three-day media and marketing conference will take place at Marina Bay Sands on November 7-9. 

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