If we go back to your origins, you started in the FMCG world, right? What do you love the most about this sector?
FMCG sector is very dynamic, fast, includes variety of products and targets very different users. You need to be innovative and use everything you can to make your marketing work, as even small budget campaigns can make big difference. And once you start, you never know how far it will take you – you just need to make the best out of it.
And what would be a good advice, from your experience, to any product or brand manager that wants to stand out from the market with his product?
Believe in what you do and advocate your product earnestly. Keep looking and moving forwards, even if you can only make small steps. Try something new, something different, but make sure you are consistent with your messages and stick to your goals. And never underestimate your audience, your users.
What do you remember the most about those days in the FMCG world?
And now, from the FMCG world to the telecom one must have been a big change… Being in food and beverage helped you out in this new sector?
A challenge of FMCG sector is a small profit margin, which means you have to sell as many units as you can as quickly and as consistently as you can to sustain the business. That can apply to modern communications services, as the Average revenue per user (ARPU), is decreasing in both fix and mobile services segment, there is fierce competition and amazing technology development, which has huge impact on our everyday life. It changes our habits and expectation tremendously, and in very short intervals as well. Just imagine what you used your mobile phone for 10 years ago and all the things you manage with it now – and it feels natural, like it has always been so. But it wasn’t. You have to make it happen.
This requires constant innovation, so you can convince people what you offer is worth their money and make them come back for more, using additional services and/or upgrading their package. It also requires smart marketing, to get people to make an initial purchase in the first place.
And you have to be very consistent about it, in all the levels of user experience, as one mistake may cost you a user. That is one more thing FMCG and communications sector have in common.
Let’s talk about one of the most recent projects we had the chance to work together NEO’s brand creation, The Smart Living Platform for Telekom Slovenije. It was a very intense project. How did you live the entire creation process with us?
NEOTM, is the manifestation of an intense creative collaboration with many partners over the period of the last four years.
We started with a creative idea to revolutionize the TV viewing and giving new meaning to the TV set. We have transformed our mission, vision and values and incorporated inspiring simplification in every step of the process – into the UX of the platform, the industrial design of the STB, remote control and packaging and the brand itself. In every step of the process we have tested the user experience to make sure that end result exceeded customer expectations and resulted in the award the award-winning platform for smart living.
NEO, the next generation of home entertainment integrates an open, secure, cloud-connected, state-of-the-art smart-home control (like lightning, climate, energy and security) that also supports Pay TV services, gaming and e-commerce. As such NEO is one of the first solutions which enables to manage TV content and smart home devices from one place, using voice commands in any language. NEO has been designed as a modular and adaptive service, with attractive option of using voice commands, and it is also possible to add quick features to the platform seamlessly and effortlessly by upgrading existing user infrastructure. As an OTT platform, NEO can be tailored for use with different operator infrastructures, and can be integrated into the operators CRM and billing systems, as well as their content libraries. In order to achieve that we didn’t limit ourselves with what is possible, we simply focused on what we would like to achieve.
Which is, in your opinion, the key factor to accomplish the creation of such an important and complex brand as NEO?
NEO brings users the world of unlimited connectivity for comfortable everyday living as it is tailored to them as much as possible. This is the way we simplify users’ lives, open numerous opportunities and provide security, which is the basis of trust.
We wanted to transform the TV experience and to demonstrate what future of home living and entertainment will be, while keeping our platform open for further development. So, a long-term perspective of NEO was very important from the start. We also wanted our co-workers to be excited about it. We planned internal and external communication very carefully, making user experience itself the center of our communication, since NEO was actually quite a novelty, people were not used to something like that. You see, NEO enjoys a first-to-market advantage on many different fronts, of which the Slovenian language voice command functionality is arguably the most important, and the most difficult for rivals to duplicate. Telekom Slovenije’s key rivals have already started selling smart home products and services, but as the market leader we were the first to build a smart living element into a flagship broadband and TV bundle.
And after its launch, how did the market respond been in terms of brand awareness for NEO?
NEO being fundamentally different from all the other existing solutions on the market brought a completely new user experience in our users’ homes. With an excellent user experience NEO generated affinity and increased loyalty among users and contributed to higher rankings of brand attributes of innovative and inspiring.
According to users themselves, NEO is the best smart living platform, as proven by the results of the survey made by Valicon for Telekom Slovenije at the end of last year. The most popular NEO features among users are voice control, a user-friendly 7-day time-shift feature, live content and the content in video libraries and apps (Youtube in particular), function that enables them to continue viewing at the point they quit watching despite a break and on different devices, TV schedule and favorite TV-channels option.
At the beginning of 2019 NEO received an award for the best user experience at the VideoTech Innovation Awards, and at the 2019 CSI Awards NEO was announced as the best platform in the Best IoT product technology or application category, and was also shortlisted for the Best TV user experience. A year earlier NEO received recognition as a highly recommended service in the Best IoT/smart home or 5G category, and was shortlisted in the TV everywhere or multi-screen video category. At the 2019 CES NEO won the Honoree award in the Technology for a better world category, while at the 2018 CIA it was shortlisted in the Best TV everywhere or multi-screen video category.
In Slovenia NEO received the bronze medal of the Slovenian Chamber of Industry and Commerce for innovations in the Central Slovenian region in 2019 and the 2019 WEBSI award for the best solution in the advanced use of technology category.
Also the prestigious 2020 German Design Award for Excellent Product Design in the entertainment category was awarded to the NEO remote.
On top of that, NEO was recognized as an important developmental milestone, according to response from users and the international businesses and professionals, while it has also received many international awards. For example, at IBC, the world’s most influential event in media, entertainment and technology, held in Amsterdam in September 2019, NEO won over the crowd as one of the few actually operational platforms at the event (whereas most were just demos). As its most attractive features were emphasized the excellent user experience, ease of use, the responsiveness of the interface, how advanced and perfected the solution is, the option to view real-time ratings, and its potential for expansion.
How do you think design influences consumers’ lives?
Design is innate aspect of every product. It enhances practical use and contributes to user experience. Therefore, we pay a lot of attention to design of a whole product and details as well. We want design to reflect main product features (simplicity, novelty, top-class) and support its usability. So once users try it, they never want to let it go.
Do you think technology can make us happier? Which is Telekom Slovenije’s approach for it?
I guess what makes us happy depends on whom you ask, but technology can without doubt make our lives much easier and comfortable. It inspires us with new possibilities, both as individuals and organizations, even countries. It can be fun and keeps us safe, it contributes to sustainability, in fact, it is relevant to all the crucial topics – it all depends on how we use it and what we make of it. My team and Telekom Slovenije as a company believe in world of opportunity, innovation and creativity. Our mission is adding simplicity and security to our users’ lives, in order to support them making their breakthrough with whatever inspires them.
What do you think are the critical points that any telecom brand should cover today?
Simplicity, quality, connectivity, accessibility, sustainability, safety, innovation – not as terms per se, but in function of everyday life and business. Our services need to offer comprehensive solutions to users activities, both personal and professional, in all the areas that matter: doing your job successfully, having fun with your family and friends, pursuing your hobbies and interest, voicing your opinions… Communications are part of our daily routines more than ever before and introducing new services tailored to users’ needs is crucial. Operators are a pillar of modern societies, so we have to act responsibly and take active part as members of community. Telekom Slovenije is well integrated in its environment and its development is based on high standards of social responsibility and sustainable development. And also – safety; with digitalization we have to be super careful with the data we produce and manage (as users and operators). Responsible data management is one of the key features of operators and mobile service providers.
Increasingly, OTTs seem to take over traditional telecommunications services. How do you think the relationship between telecommunications and consumers could improve?
Telekom Slovenije – like many operators today – is looking to partners and vertical markets to provide opportunity for product and service collaboration to uncover new revenue streams. NEO, with its embedded e-commerce Webshop and multi-application search functionality, is well suited to the exploration of that goal.
And finally, could you give us a preview of What are Telekom Slovenije’s expectations regarding 5G and how do you plan to use it, perhaps in new lines?
5G will bring new opportunities to develop innovative high-value ICT solutions, enable advanced multimedia services, secure development of the Internet of Things, secure public networks and healthcare solutions, e-call, smart cities, business vertical digitization, robotics, logistics and more. I am excited to see the future and possibilities it promises to bring into our lives as we are taking an active role in shaping life-changing trends.