Ericsson appointed a new CEO and executive team 18 months ago which has led to the adoption of a new strategy that the company calls ‘the Focused Business Strategy’ because it is more customer-oriented. Telecom Review had the opportunity to speak to Helena Norrman, senior vice president, chief marketing and communications officer and head of marketing & corporate relations at Ericsson to know more about the vendor’s new strategy and get an update on what to expect in 2019.
Norrman explained that Ericsson’s focused strategy is built on customers’ needs. 5G holds the potential of increasing revenues, while operators need to have the best technology to be able to fulfill the high demand on data at the lowest cost and also offer a pleasant end user experience. We have done investments into gaining insights for 5G for both consumers and industry digitalization bringing operators some initial answers on what business potential there might be in industry digitalization by 5G, including what are the top use cases and how to capture this potential. If the networks are not performing, they will not deliver the use cases and if the operators are not set up to be a modern digital organization, they will not be able to offer a good customer experience.
Ericsson’s new strategy, which was launched 14 months ago, has brought Ericsson back on its feet again. The vendor registered growth in the third quarter of this year for the first time since 2014 and achieved profitability for the first time since 2016.
Norrman highlighted that the appetite for data services has increased among customers and consumers which has posed a challenge to industry players that have struggled to leverage that demand into good business. In order for operators to be able to address the demand without affecting the network’s quality, they need to find a way to reduce the cost of liberating the data. This is what Ericsson is trying to tackle to support operators through its strategy.
In terms of 5G, Ericsson’s CMO mentioned that 5G technology is already a reality in North America and will become a reality in more advanced markets in 2019, especially that networks are getting ready for the technology and 5G-compatible devices will be launched soon. Consumers will be able to use the technology and benefit from the limitless opportunities it offers.
Ericsson is one of the world leaders in the telecoms industry. How do you see marketing playing a role within the company’s strategy?
It all comes back to the business and how it is developing. The takeoff of 5G is what we are talking about now. Since 5G is different in character and is more of a platform for innovation, it will bring many use cases. Of course it will be important to our customers, but it will also have the possibility of creating new businesses for our customers and bringing more applications, industries and enterprises to the network.
All of this means that the role of marketing is changing as well because it will not only be about how we are interacting with customers and attracting talent, but also it is becoming a broader discussion with the ecosystem. It’s about showcasing the technology’s possibilities to our customers’ customers. It’s about sparking the interest and showing the possibilities so that our customers can start engaging with other players. It’s not only a relationship between us and our customers, but also an ecosystem play because you will need a lot of different components in place in order to fully leverage the technology.
Therefore, we have to broaden our horizons and be part of a bigger discussion. This is the shift that we’re undertaking.
Strategies evolve over the years to cope with the emerging trends and developments. Can you explain the evolution of Ericsson’s brand strategy?
We did a big strategic change in April 2017 when this focused business strategy was launched. Since then, we’ve been executing on that strategy that is bearing fruit. In connection with that, we developed a new brand strategy and aligned our marketing strategy with our new business strategy.
We are now more focused on the customer experience and customer value, and it’s more specific to the value we create for our customers. So, we developed a new brand strategy as part of our business strategy development, and we have adopted the marketing strategy to make sure that it is a very strong support.
What are the key pillars of Ericsson’s marketing strategy?
Our marketing = strategy is built on three pillars. The first pillar is supporting the business, improving customer experience, and showcasing our technologies and the value of our solutions to our customers to make sure that they select us and value working with us.
The second pillar is to position Ericsson for future growth which is not about selling today but also making sure that our customers see us as a relevant partner for the future. So, it’s about technology leadership, innovation and understanding not only our customers’ business today but also making them feel that we have a good direction for the future.
The final pillar is about restoring trust and confidence in the company because if you go through a difficult patch, you have to be humble, prove your value and show your stakeholders and customers that you’re back and you can be trusted because you have what it takes.
5G was the buzzword in 2018. What will be the main focus in 2019?
2019 will still be about 5G but it won’t be the buzzword anymore. It is the year of the real 5G. Commercial launches were made before the end of this year, but the majority of the early commercial launches will happen next year.
We should expect to see networks coming into play and a lot of developments will happen in order for us to start using the networks. In 2019, 5G will be a reality in more markets; we will start to see real business and use cases. That will spark the conversation about innovation and use cases, because it is only when a technology is in a place that people can actually start to understand what they can use it for. That process will start happening in 2019.
How do you describe your role within Ericsson?
My role allows me to work with everyone in the company at all the levels of the portfolio. I work closely with strategy development, financial performance and strategy execution. I work at the intersection of everything we do. My job is to make sure that we understand what we’re doing and what we want to do so we can position the company for success and engage in a relevant way.