Vodafone Portugal is offering free communications on 24 and 25 December for its customers. They can choose one of two options: voice, SMS and MMS communications or free data for internet access. The offer is valid for the first 500,000 individual customers and must be activated by 21 December in the My Vodafone App, or by calling the number 1275. Meantime, 3 UK has launched a marketing campaign encouraging Britons to not use their phones at all on Christmas Day. The “Go Cold Turkey” campaign will run on social media, urging people to “properly enjoy the wonders of a delicious Christmas dinner, paper hats and watching TV repeats with loved ones,” the mobile operator said. A short film produced by the company—viewable on Three’s YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages—speaks of “a Britain afflicted with extreme device addiction” and shows the extremes to which people will go in order to use their smartphones, such as unplugging the Christmas lights to charge a phone.
Christmas has traditionally been a time for creative and generous promotions from mobile operators, who offer discounts and free services in celebration of the holiday. Such initiatives can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty and thereby boost retention—while costing the operators relatively little. This season, we were struck by the sharp contrast between two approaches by two operators in two different countries. While Vodafone Portugal takes the tried and true road of offering free communications—with a choice of either voice and text or data—3 UK is actually encouraging Britons—and not just its subscribers but all Britons—not to use telecom services at all during the holiday.
It certainly seems counterintuitive and even self-destructive for a telecom operator to try and inhibit use of its core services, but arguably 3’s strange initiative could actually serve a similar purpose to that of the Portuguese promotion. By identifying “device addiction” as a social ill and making a token gesture toward fighting it, 3 UK will potentially accrue positive feelings from customers, which could have the effect of bolstering the company’s image and brand and thus helping with retention and even acquisition. And from a different angle, it is possible that taking a one- or two-day hiatus from mobile services could have the effect of increasing customers’ appetite for those services after the hiatus is over and end up driving up net consumption.