2019 Telecom Marketing Trends: How’d We Do?

October 8th, 2019 | Emily Groch

Each fall, we develop our annual industry trends based on industry observations, competitive marketing, and consumer data. As we prepare for the launch of our 2020 Telecom & Media Trends, let’s take a look at Comperemedia’s 2019 Telecom Trends, and see where we got it right—or not.

  1. 5G Shake-up

This trend looks at how 5G would start to influence marketing in 2019. We anticipated a new wave of network claims, a renewed focus on differentiation to cut through claims noise and more competitive internet pricing and promotions due to competition from 5G fixed and mobile wireless.

How’d we do? We were a little early.

If we look at 2019 to-date, 5G hasn’t exactly shaken anything up yet—except for maybe a few tempers over AT&T’s “5GE” branding. Consumer-ready 5G has been rolling out at a snail’s pace, compared to the marketing hype churning around the next-gen networks, particularly at the beginning of the year. Yes, we did see new network claims, but these were mostly around “firsts,” and these were not well-differentiated from one provider to another. And, although the fixed wireless services are rolling out—with newbies like Starry proclaiming great expansion plans for the months ahead, and Verizon rapidly upgrading its 5G Home offering—the pockets of availability are too small to put serious pricing pressure on the incumbent internet providers, yet. Our predictions were a bit premature, but we are confident they will come to fruition in the next few years.

  1. Game On!

This trend anticipated greater investments from telecom providers to forge relationships in the gaming space, in order to better engage with casual and hardcore gamers, ahead of the widespread adoption of 5G (which will have significant implications for gaming).

How’d we do? Right on.

Esports is an active and booming industry, and both telecom providers and media companies increased their investments in teams, leagues, and services in 2019—it would require a much longer post to document all of the developments. Here are a few highlights:

T-Mobile extended its sponsorship of the Houston Outlaws, and also sponsored the New York Excelsior team (also part of Overwatch League) in 2019. Also this year, Comcast, which already had a significant stake in the esports team Philadelphia Fusion, announced plans for a $50 million esports arena in downtown Philadelphia. Comcast also announced an esports joint venture with South Korea’s SK Telecom in early 2019.

In Canada, Telus hosted the Calgary eSports League at Telus Spark. Bell Canada announced an exclusive partnership with global esports organization OverActive Media, including team sponsorship, content integration, event production, marketing and more.

Esports is trickling into more streaming video services and even into mainstream media. In early 2019, Turner announced an agreement with EA Sports to broadcast “FIFA 19” events on Bleacher Report Live. Plus, a particularly big step for esports occurred in March when ABC broadcast Overwatch League’s Stage 1 Final on a Saturday afternoon. 

A major development this year was Sprint’s partnership with Hatch, the first cloud-based, mobile gaming service aimed at 5G users. Subscribers to Sprint’s 5G Unlimited Premium plan will get three free months of the service. With Hatch, Sprint is catering to the mobile gaming crowd, which has increased from 39% of consumers in 2018, to 42% in 2019.

  1. Tech-savvy Seniors

This trend outlines the importance of seniors to technology and telecom companies, as these consumers become increasingly tech savvy. We expected that telecom providers would increase and enhance their marketing to senior segments, and feature products, services and partnerships to promote safer independent living.

How’d we do? Partly right.

We predicted an increase in marketing to seniors in 2019, and have, in fact, observed a measurable increase in direct marketing efforts to this group. Comperemedia observed a 26% year-over-year increase in telecom acquisition mail sent to consumers aged 65 and up in Canada, plus a whopping 75% increase in mail to this group in the US. In 2019, marketers are sending a disproportionately high volume of mail to seniors. Consumers 65+ make up 20% of the US population, but 25% of telecom acquisition mailers went to this group during the first half of 2019. In Canada, where 17% of the population is aged 65 or older, 29% of acquisition mail went to this group.

We also observed increased spending to reach seniors online. For example, when analyzing marketing spend from telecom providers at AARP.com, Comperemedia found a number of telecoms purchasing direct placements during 2019 H1 that had not been placing direct ads on the site a year prior. These included AT&T, Sling TV and T-Mobile. Several providers, including Comcast, Verizon and GreatCall increased their investment on the site this year. Consumer Cellular, which has long had a partnership with AARP, maintained a consistently high spend at AARP.com of around $900K year over year.

TELUS email campaign

Although seniors are clearly in the sights of telecom marketers, they have a long way to go in diversifying the products and services they promote to seniors, and in tailoring marketing messages, images and incentives to this group. We’re seeing more providers offer and promote medical alert devices (like Telus, which launched its product in late 2018), and we saw continued promotion of 55+ unlimited plans launched by US providers in 2018. But we haven’t seen providers diversify the types of products they promote to seniors. For instance, although providers are promoting smart watches, connected home devices, and other IoT products, they haven’t started using marketing to illustrate how these products, paired with their services, can make life easier specifically for seniors. Since most Baby Boomers want to age in place, there is no time like the present to showcase the ways technology can enable consumers to do just that as they get older.

Keep an eye out for our 2020 Telecom and Media Trends, launching next month!

Emily Groch

Emily Groch

Emily Groch is Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.