Jo Carman, Director, Plusnet

CMO Spotlight

Jo Carman on her 'squiggly' career and Plusnet's rebrand

Plusnet brand and commercial chief Jo Carman discusses her atypical journey into marketing and Plusnet's brand transformation

By Conor Nichols

In June this year, broadband company Plusnet launched a rebrand campaign revealing its new brand platform ‘That’s a Plus’ to the UK.

A rise in competition, intense price-fighting and under-investment in the brand meant that Plusnet was a business outmanoeuvred and in decline before it embarked on a brand refresh a year ago.

Working with Accenture Song, Plusnet worked to reimagine the brand to appeal to cost-savvy Brits seeking value, especially in light of the cost of living crisis. Redefining its purpose and value proposition, the brand and the agency created a fresh visual identity building on a customer-centric value proposition that put ‘Plus’ at the heart of the brand. A new 'No Fluff' campaign and a brand platform called 'That’s a plus' was rolled out. It was devised by Accenture Song and marked a new strategic direction for the brand, with a focus on growing the business in the UK.

The campaign was created by Accenture Song and directed by up-and-coming Swedish director Gustav Sundström.

The TV campaign follows a man who encounters a giant ball of fluff floating in his living room. Unperturbed, he sets about hoovering it, eventually revealing the huge pink Plus pulsating at its centre. The campaign was also supported by animated social media activations.

Since the rebrand campaign’s launch, Plusnet’s brand attribution has improved as well as its sales.

Leading the telecom provider’s transformation is Jo Carman, Plusnet’s director, who hails from a banking background having worked for companies such as RBS and Coutts. Carman has extensive experience in business transformation and has also held senior roles at Vodafone and BT Group. In her role, Carman looks after Plusnet’s end-to-end brand and business which includes the company’s commercials and P&L, propositions, and the entire marketing division.

We caught up with the marketer to learn more about her atypical career path and her ambitions for Plusnet.

Tell us more about your background and how you got into marketing?

My career journey hasn’t been linear, but I think it has been great in giving me all the skills I need for my current role – I am a big believer in squiggly careers! I started out in banking working for the likes of RBS and Coutts. Working across APAC and EMEA, my roles focused on transformation and operational strategy which gave me the opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of running a business; commercial strategy, go-to-market, transformation, product and operations. The experience of working abroad also gave me a wonderful appreciation for people and cultures – which are the foundations of any successful modern business. When I returned to the UK 8 years after my international banking career, I set up the Consumer IOT business for Vodafone, which ran like a start-up inside a big corporation.

I first arrived at BT Group in the Enterprise team, now BT Business. I led the transformation of their various business units, with a big focus on process, CX and Digital, as well as introducing agile working practises. After a short while, I was approached about my current role. Plusnet has been part of BT Group since 2006, it is well known for straightforward products and services baked in Northern values. However, like all good businesses, staying ahead of the curve and evolving is necessary for longevity. I was brought into the business to lead the next phase of Plusnet’s growth which has been a true privilege.

What do you enjoy most about brand transformation and marketing?

Marketing can mean something different in each business. At Plusnet, my role is more than leading our creative brand vision and advertising. I get to take business challenges and build solutions that are creative, customer-first, and with commercial metrics and business success at its heart. I think my non-traditional marketing background, combined with a love of people and what makes them tick, has led me to take a very commercial - and fearless approach to turning the Plusnet business into a modern day brand – supported by a laser focus on what's right for our customers and ensuring we meet our commercial goals. My superpower is being bold, taking the tough decisions and seeing them through to execution – it’s incredibly rewarding and really needed if businesses are to improve.

What are the main goals you hope to achieve with the Plusnet rebrand?

Plusnet is well known and loved across the UK, we see that in our award-winning customer service. We want to continue to drive first-purchase intent among our target audience, providing them with a broadband service they can rely on without of all the jargon.

Our customers - both existing and new deserve to see and feel a brand that is modern, talks to everyone, represents everyone, and more importantly, is supported by the experiences we promise – straight forward broadband at straight forward prices. We need to ensure our brand talks to the value segment in the UK, a segment that has grown, and continues to provide people with the most reliable and modern broadband connection.

I have also enjoyed having fun with the brand – Plusnet has a great sense of humour and tone of voice, and it was really important to me that we kept this in all of our new and beautiful brand assets. From fluff balls to beautiful squishy pink pluses – having fun has been key!

What challenges have you faced in light of how cost-savvy the consumer has had to become due to the cost-of-living crisis?

The cost-of-living crisis is front of mind for us every day as a business, and as humans. We have seen how it has put pressure on people’s spending power on everyday essentials like the internet. At Plusnet, we have a number of affordable broadband products, and our teams are trained to help customers find the best product for their usage and budget. As part of BT Group , Plusnet customers also have access to affordability solutions including penalty-free moves to our social tariffs, support via the Breathing Space and the Money Advisor Network.

How are you using AI to improve your creative output?

There is a lot of chatter around generative AI. Across BT Group. It’s something we are cautiously excited about and experimenting with, while keeping our eyes open to the risks involved with any new technology.

I am always open to innovative technology, especially if it can help bring personal and useful recommendations to our customers. I can see a place for pairing human creativity and AI overtime but there is definitely more experimenting to do.

What advice would you have for marketers to get the best out of their agency partners?

Trust and honesty. It is next to impossible to build a brand like Plusnet without a strong agency network with trusted counsel and creative know-how. When you are in-house while you benefit from the laser focus on your core commercial business, objectives, and vision, a good agency can provide you with marketing industry insights and sector agnostic creativity which you can’t get in house. I also believe in having a partnership which is honest and challenging – that way, we get some incredible outcomes.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting a job in marketing?

I would encourage anyone wanting to get into marketing to be curious.

Get comfortable asking questions about your audience, your business objectives, and the complicated acronyms we use in the corporate world. Ask away. Marketing requires two skills at its heart - creative connection and commercial understanding. The most successful campaigns can be directly mapped to your P/L

Get good at translating complex information into very simple messages. In marketing being able to quickly engage with your audience and deliver your message with understanding is key to building your audience.


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