Telenor: Building marketing muscle through structure and accountability

When I was hired as marketing director for Telenor Denmark, the assignment was clear: “Make the marketing more digital and launch the Telenor brand”.

At the time, Telenor Denmark consisted of mobile operators Sonofon and Tele 2 plus broadband operator Cybercity all of which had been merged a few months prior. It had been agreed with corporate head office in Norway that these three brands would be rebranded and relaunched as Telenor within 6 months.

Like pretty much everyone else, Telenor wanted to improve marketing results with the same or less budget – and in this case it meant maintaining existing market scores, ensuring high awareness of an entirely new brand, getting a bunch of new customers, and explaining to existing customers what happened to the other three brands and avoid they fled to the competition.

The idea was to launch the Telenor brand and with that a new media model ie shifting more media dollars from traditional to digital media. Somehow this would make the marketing more effective and cheaper.

The courage to try out new things is commendable but simply shifting messages from one media channel to the other does not necessarily yield higher marketing ROI, certainly not in any sustained way. In the case of Telenor, a couple of issues needed to be resolved before contemplating campaign and media tactics.

A tsunami of stop-gap tactics
The department I was now heading was a mix of people from all three companies with varying skill levels, experience, background, and motivation. They were trying to keep up with the constant changes in the vast and complicated product portfolio managed by the product department. These guys of course wanted their particular product marketed and their specific segments boosted. Meanwhile the sales guys wanted to launch their own channel marketing activities and was looking to the marketing department to deliver materials, guidelines, and execution, preferably yesterday, thanks. Alas, not an unusual situation for a marketing department.

Consequently, the amount of requests for marketing programs and activity was like a tsunami on the marketing department who were more or less operating like a campaign office and production facility, churning out one campaign,  loyalty program, pamphlet, print ad, TV spot, retail POS package after the other without questioning the viability or relevance – there was no time for discussion, analysis or post-evaluation.

Simply relaunching the three brands as one Telenor and emphasizing digital media was not going to solve the problem which had a systemic nature. Despite strong analytical skills, Marketing had gradually become the department for pretty pictures and funny hats, and that was not going to fly as far I was concerned. Where I come from, marketing plays a different and more important role. But it also takes a lot of responsibility.

Alignment, alignment, alignment
What was needed was a more considered marketing practice incl. a more pro-active and accountable marketing department: 1) Agreement between Marketing, Product, and Sales on roles and remit, 2) a marketing process that involved Marketing much earlier in the product development process and promoted collaboration, 3) a shared roadmap and annual plans with priorities that the three functions would agree on, and 4) a considerably up-skilled marketing department with a clearer structure and job roles.

The following 4 months, parallel to preparing the transition from the three incumbent brands to the Telenor brand, my team and I worked with our stakeholders to implement a number of workflow changes. These included a common development process, a shared roadmap and goals, and agreement on roles and responsibilities. Meanwhile a restructure of the marketing department took place with recruitment of experienced, senior marketing profiles, and a couple of agency changes.

The result was a more systematic approach to marketing with a clearer view of the workflow which allowed realistic annual planning, and importantly a more visible and accountable marketing department. And a timely launch of the Telenor brand.



Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Telenor Denmark is a subsidiary of Norwegian telco giant Telenor Group. With annual turn-over of DKK 6,8 billion (USD 1,12 billion)  in 2010, Telenor Denmark is the second largest telco in Denmark. Telenor Group started in 1853 a a telegraph and telephone company and today is one of the biggest mobile operators in the world with mobile operations in 11 markets, 30,000 employees and an annual turn-over in 2011 of NOK 98,5 billion (USD 16,5 billion).

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