Osing brings Telus to the masses

Make no mistake about it, Roy Osing lives and breathes marketing. Osing, who recently became executive vice-president, enterprise marketing and chief marketing officer at Telus, was the top marketing executive at BC Telecom (which merged with Telus in 1999) when it...

Make no mistake about it, Roy Osing lives and breathes marketing. Osing, who recently became executive vice-president, enterprise marketing and chief marketing officer at Telus, was the top marketing executive at BC Telecom (which merged with Telus in 1999) when it received the 1998 ‘Marketer of the Year’ award from the B.C. chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Which suits Telus well as the Burnaby, B.C.-based telecommunications firm strives to become a high-profile national brand. Telus’ purchase of Toronto-based Clearnet Communications last August was big news in the communications business, and served as Telus’ calling card in central Canada.

Strategy put in a call to Osing to ask him about Telus’ positioning in the market, its plans for the Clearnet brand and the chances of consolidating its business with a single agency.

Q: What is your approach to marketing at a time when technology is moving at light speed, yet there remains great consumer uncertainty over the products and services provided?

A: Our strategy is focused on developing compelling integrated solutions that leverage the technologies of data IP and wireless. When you look at the competitors, you find a lot of market fragmentation and, for the most part, the other players tend to be technology/ product-oriented. So there is a lot of niche marketing going on driven largely by technology. We decided to choose a ‘sweet spot’ of integrated solutions as a way to differentiate us. We think it is a sustainable strategy and it’s one we are unique in. We’re broad and we’re deep in terms of data and IP, so it’s a strategy that fits very nicely with (a) what the market wants and (b) the capabilities and competencies of our enterprise.

Q: Clearnet has established a solid identity in Eastern Canada. What are your plans regarding the Clearnet brand?

A: We’re in the middle of looking at the mosaic of brands we have and developing an approach that would unify that mosaic into a master brand for Telus.

Q: How will you marry the Clearnet and Telus brands?

A: We’re in the final throes of cap-and-gowning exactly what that’s going to look like. We’re going to find a way to have a singular unified message around Telus in all the businesses we have coast to coast.

Q: What is your timeline for competing nationally against say, Bell?

A: We are doing it now. I hope that we are in a position to have a master brand nailed down and [ready to] go to market within a month or so.

Q: Does Telus have any plans to get into the TV distribution market?

A: No. Our content and entertainment strategy is really predicated around our Internet play and figuring out how we can provide high-speed content through our portals. We have Mybc.com, Alberta.com and Myto.com and last year we signed a deal with Enron [Broadband Services] and Blockbuster to develop a pay-per-view capability. We don’t intend to be in the content business. However, to the extent that content is relevant to our value proposition, we’ll partner with companies who actually do that.

Q: What’s the status of the Blockbuster deal?

A: We’re in the process of putting that plan together. If the business case proves out, we would provide pay-per-view content supplied by Blockbuster through our portal, and develop a set-top box to supply that. We plan to reach close to 100% of our urban customers with DSL over the next few years and we have a massive capital program plan for 2001 to give us a jump there.

Q: How do you manage the marketing of the whole enterprise so that a consistent brand image is maintained?

A: It’s really a difficult challenge. Technically people think about the brand first, but it’s far broader and deeper than that. We’ve got to have a way to create offers and integrate products across the enterprise, and that’s a big part of what the CMO is challenged to do.

Q: Both Rogers and Bell have single ad agencies. Telus does not. What sort of impact does having different agencies have for your brand?

A: I’m not a fan particularly of a single agency. I think there are many aspects of customer communications that require different competencies. I have yet to find one agency with all the competencies we need, so don’t be surprised if we have more than one.

Q: How will the different responsibilities be divided?

A: It’s too early [to say]. We have a mass-market, Western-based, consumer-based business, we’ve got a national small- to medium-sized business market, we’ve got national client service, which is a large business, we’ve got a global partner and trading solution team, which is a wholesale business, and we have a wireless national business. The strategies are different, and the go-to-market tactics in communications requirements will be unique.

Q: How do you hope to meet and exceed customer expectations?

A: If we are looked upon as the solutions provider that makes it easier to wade through the uncertainties of how technology is evolving, and we can provide experiences that blow [our customers] away, then I think we’ll be rewarded with ever-increasing amounts of cash.

Q: What is the state of your Internet connection at home?

A: I’ve got my PC set up with a DSL connection and I spend an awful lot of time, researching what excites me, which is marketing, which has always been my passion.

Q: What gadget can you not live without?

A: My boat (laughs).