Download the deck

At Telia, we have a rich and long history as a retail communications provider but we’re not as well known for our investment into the global infrastructure that underpins the internet.

While our B2C business brand is strong, our B2B brand awareness is lagging, and in this article, I’ll take you through three working examples of how we’ve improved the perception of our magnitude, quality, and culture.

In this article, I'll discuss:

  • Challenges of driving global brand awareness
  • How to link brand positioning to product positioning

Telia - snapshot

I'm going to kick this article off by explaining a bit about Telia as a company and what we do, which will also help to provide some context into my role as a product marketer.

  • Telia was founded in 1853 in Sweden - we're a pretty old company.
  • We are primarily a mobile operator.
  • We're the fifth-largest mobile operator in Europe.
  • We have 24 million subscribers.
  • Our B2C operations are across Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.
  • In addition to mobile, we also sell fixed-line voice services, broadband, and TV.
  • We have 20,000 employees across all our offices.

Parallel investments in the global internet

We have a rich and long history as a retail telecommunications provider but not many people know Telia has also made a lot of investment into the global infrastructure that underpins the internet.

More than a couple of decades ago, Telia formed a business unit, which today is called Telia Carrier, the business unit I'm a part of.

This business unit was focused on building out a global network that would scale as the internet was scaling, which started off as the Viking Network and very quickly expanded across the world.

By 2001, we already had end-to-end coverage from Russia all the way to Silicon Valley. Today, our network, which is more than 65,000 kilometers of optical fiber touches more than 35 countries.

The world’s best-connected internet backbone provider

Our greatest and proudest claim today is we are the world's best-connected internet backbone provider. More than 55% of internet routes are directly connected to our network.

This graphic below, which a colleague of mine helped to design very nicely depicts what the internet infrastructure world is really about.

There's a lot of undersea cables, a lot of cables deeply buried underground, connecting data centers, buildings, allowing a lot of businesses to emerge and of course, a lot of these companies have gone on to become the world's biggest companies.

Occasionally you have animals like sharks and squirrels that get in the way and bite into cables and get in the way of business. It's a vibrant ecosystem and it's an exciting place for Telia to be a part of.

25 years being on the internet

Last year, we celebrated 25 years of being on the internet; AS1299 is our unique ID that identifies our portion of the internet backbone.

Last year, we celebrated 25 years of being on the internet.

In those 25 years, we've done a lot in terms of pioneering new technologies like:

  • The first provider to enable cross-border gaming services.
  • The first provider to enable mobile data roaming.
  • In 2015, we were ranked number one in terms of the number of connections on our backbone.
  • We've worked with companies like Facebook to help them trial some of their innovative infrastructure projects.

A series of firsts, including working with our industry peers, to develop best practices to make the internet secure, stable, and a reliable infrastructure we can all depend on.

We help global organizations scale operations using the internet backbone

Using our network, we've built a portfolio of B2B products. Today, we have about 17 B2B products that really help organizations around the world to scale their operations using our network and the internet backbone.

Primary use cases include customers who buy like wholesale customers and buy in bulk to resell into their own retail markets, for example.

We help customers connect data centers around the world, their offices, provide them with private and dedicated connectivity to the cloud providers, for example.

Our network directly connects with AWS, Google, Azure, Oracle, IBM, and in fact, a lot of these providers are customers of ours, they buy some of our products to help underpin their own infrastructure.

network directly connects with AWS, Google, Azure, Oracle, IBM, and in fact, a lot of these providers are customers of ours, they buy some of our products to help underpin their own infrastructure.

Challenges of driving global brand awareness

In our product growth strategy, we've made a lot of investments to build a core product portfolio of global products. We've also opened offices in key markets and hired locally, for example, in London.

We continuously expand our assets globally, particularly through network expansion.

This is an iterative process, although the illustration doesn't really show it as an iteration, it's an iterative process that we continuously grow our product portfolio.

Throughout this process, we always hope we can use our brand awareness to help us drive forward with our product strategy.

But the reality is that, unlike our B2C business where our brand is really strong, for our B2B business where we're tapping into markets where we're not a familiar brand, brand awareness isn't necessarily there to support us.

Some of this comes down to the way B2C marketing works.

Polycentric marketing in B2C

In many of the markets where we have a retail operation, we apply polycentric marketing - local languages, local currencies, and really adapting to the local market as much as possible.

Geocentric marketing in global B2B

But for us in B2B for Telia Carrier, the world is our local market. It sounds a bit like an HSBC advert but our products are about interoperability, standardization, global coverage, and global scale. We haven't had the need to use our brand as much as our B2C business has.

That said, brand awareness does matter. We do have competition, increasingly more and more competition. And in many markets, we have our own local-global competition we need to contend with.


This is where, as a product marketer, it's really important to think about how we can link brand positioning to product positioning.

I like to quote the great Philip Kotler who said “brand positioning is the act of designing the company's offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”.

Plant seeds of interest

It's about planting seeds into the minds of the target market. Using this statement, I've created my own version of what product positioning means to me.

Product positioning, to me, just changing a few words really, is the act of designing the product offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of target buyers.

The functional interest in terms of the functionality of our products. For us, it's very much connected to coverage, performance, and commercial terms.  The emotional interest in terms of the perception we want to drive about the magnitude, the quality, and the cultural fit that wraps around products and services.

When planting those seeds of interest, for me, the way I look at interest is divided into two areas;

The functional interest in terms of the functionality of our products. For us, it's very much connected to coverage, performance, and commercial terms.

The emotional interest in terms of the perception we want to drive about the magnitude, the quality, and the cultural fit that wraps around our products and services.

Now I'll go through some working examples of how I put this style of thinking into practice to drive brand awareness.

Working example: the perception of magnitude

Using product positioning we can drive a perception of magnitude. We need to have proof points that will support the claims we make about the coverage we offer in our products.

Things like:

  • Network maps, for example, something we use a lot in our company to showcase our global network and its size and scale.
  • Providing real numbers about the number of direct internet routes makes us the number one backbone.
  • A clear description of our entire product portfolio and how far-reaching these products are.
  • Our engineering staff in terms of how we design, build and implement our products - literally, our products are buried under the ground so not anyone can actually design, build, and implement these products. So it's really important to highlight our engineering talents.
  • Our service coverage in terms of delivery and customer care.
  • Where it adds value, it's probably worth saying a little bit about our B2C footprint in terms of our coverage across Scandinavia and the Baltics if it adds value to the conversation.

This then helps to hopefully create the right perception about the magnitude of our products so the target buyer is feeling we are a global company, we're well connected, have a good collection of products, with a lot of experience, and we cover their market.

Even though we have a B2C footprint in Scandinavia, we cover their market whether they're in the US, Canada, across other parts of Europe, or in Asia - we cover their market. And we understand retail markets as well.

This is particularly useful when we're talking to wholesale customers who have their own retail markets they sell into. This helps to drive and feed into the brand positioning to create some brand awareness around our B2B products.

Working example: the perception of quality

The next working example is how we can use product positioning to drive the perception of quality. We can provide proof points on:

  • Our network speed,
  • The capacity we have on our network,
  • The technical standards we use across all of our products,
  • The certifications we have,
  • The technology partners we work with, and
  • Again, if it adds value, to say something about the technologies we use for our retail products; 5G, IoT, 4G, etc.

This helps to feed into the emotional interests our target buyers have, which will hopefully leave them feeling:

  • We're a fast network,
  • The solutions we provide to them are scalable,
  • We're compatible with the technologies they use and the way they built their own network,
  • We're credible,
  • We use the best of breed technology, and
  • We work with the latest technologies based on what we do in our B2C business.

Again, this helps to feed into the brand positioning and drive brand awareness.

Working example: the perception of culture

The final working example is how we can use product positioning to drive the perception of a good cultural fit. We can provide:

  • List prices for each of our products and the attached pricing model that goes with it.
  • The contractual duration, which is really important for a lot of customers.
  • The cost of change requests - what happens if they want to make a change after they've ordered a product and a few months down the line they decide they want to modify it.
  • How we configure price and quote - our solutions, the products we sell can be very complex so we need to have a good mechanism to be able to quote our customers.
  • Again, if it adds value, say something about our market share, the fact we have 24 million retail subscribers can help add value to this.

Product positioning can be used to drive the perception of a good cultural fit.

This then feeds into the emotional interests our target buyers have, which will hopefully create a perception that:

  • We're a partner they can trust and there's a good cultural fit.
  • We may not be the cheapest but we offer a very fair pricing model, which is consumption-based, customers only pay for what they use.
  • We don't lock customers into long-term contracts, we offer a great deal of flexibility.
  • Although the solutions we offer are quite complex, we have a way of presenting the solutions and pricing solutions in a very simple and straightforward way.
  • And, we have a lot of customers - in addition to our B2B customers, we also have 24 million customers who love us as well.

This feeds into our brand positioning to drive awareness.


The results

The end result of using this methodology is we can tap into the functional interests the target buyer has, and provide them with proof points on things like coverage, performance, and commercial terms.

This helps to generate and create a perception around our products to support their emotional interest. The fact the products are far-reaching, there's a great magnitude that supports the products, and we have a good cultural fit.

All of this together helps to support our brand positioning and drive brand awareness.

At the end of it, hopefully, the target buyer who perhaps didn't know us before is now thinking "Okay, I didn't know Telia before, but now I know they're a pretty big company, they've got well-engineered products, and they offer a fair deal."


Conclusion

Understand the relationship between product positioning and brand positioning

The conclusion is that as a product marketer it’s really important we understand the relationship between product positioning and brand positioning.

Continuously connect the dots to link the functional interests target buyers have to the emotional interests they have.

Always look for proof points

I like to think of myself as a bit of an investigative journalist in terms of I go around, I talk to everybody from product managers, engineers, sales, really trying to uncover the magic behind our products, and really try and find those proof points we can bring forward and showcase to our customers in different ways.

Weave in B2C success where it adds value

Where it matters, it's always good to weave in our success in our B2C business if it adds value. It doesn't always add value so we have to judge the situation to see where it's worth mentioning.

Drive perception on magnitude, quality, and culture

Finally, for me, I really try to keep a focus on how we can drive perception around magnitude, quality, and culture.

Thank you.

Download the deck