Why T-Mobile is taking a TikTok approach to its brand messaging, working with creators and exploring AI

Marketers and agency execs credit TikTok’s explosive growth with its seemingly authentic and unfiltered approach amid a social media landscape where filters and glossy polish have historically ruled.

T-Mobile is taking a similar approach within its new brand messaging, hoping to have more unvarnished content to connect with viewers on a personal level, foster a deeper sense of engagement and resonate as other brands have this year on TikTok.

“What everyone talks about is $25 a line with a free phone and it’s very offer-centric,” said Clint Patterson, T-Mobile’s chief marketing officer. “It’s just this sea of sameness and we recognized no one was really owning this white space and talking about the things that really matter to customers, which is a great connection with simplicity, transparency and predictability.”

In partnership with its agency of record, OKRP, T-Mobile wants to advertise its new features.

Beyond advertising on X (formerly known as Twitter), linear TV, digital out-of-home, and connected TV, T-Mobile hired influencers Alex Yoon (3.8 million followers on TikTok) and comedian Tom Fell (133,000 followers on TikTok) to publish videos organically on their accounts with a call to action to switch to the T-Mobile brand. T-Mobile will boost the published videos with paid spend after it reaches a required view count, though the company didn’t specify the required number.

Yoon published his video on August 17 and got over 2 million views overnight, according to the social media analytics tool Iconosquare. His video now has over 13 million views. Tom Fell, meanwhile, is set to publish his this week. The financial agreement between T-Mobile and its influencers was not disclosed.

“The strategy was to find people who resonate with this message and whose platforms really speak to cutting through the bullshit and then just enable them to create fun content that ties to the campaign,” said Patterson. “No one really wants to watch an ad, so we chose the influencers in the right territory and then just let them make great content.”

Patterson said that the brand is investing over $10 million in the campaign, including linear and connected TV, sponsorships, radio, podcasts, influencers, and social media display banners. According to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics, the brand spent a little over $313 million so far on advertising, down from $1.1 billion in 2022. 

“This is an expression of who we are as a brand and our promise to customers and what customers can expect from us so we felt that it was really important to put significant spend behind it to help re-establish our brand position in the market,” he said.

It is the company’s intent to empower customers by offering transparent pricing, flexible options, and allowing them to switch plans or devices without hassle, according to Mat Zucker, senior partner and co-lead of marketing and sales at Prophet, a growth strategy consulting firm.

“The new messaging story of no yada-yada is consistent with parent brand T-Mobile’s ‘un-carrier‘ strategy and quickly and simply makes the point while differentiating from the competition,” he said. “The channel strategy, including X, should work well with it especially if the client and agency have more executions than just the initial to keep it interesting and extend it.”

Aside from the new brand messaging and influencer push, T-Mobile is exploring AI and joining the ranks of brands such as L’Oreal and Google to test artificial intelligence as part of their media mix. Patterson said on the creative side, T-Mobile already uses it.

“We are exploring aggressively how we can bring AI into marketing both on the sort of buying side, sort of more programmatic targeting as well as the message side as well as kind of creative development,” he said. “We already have systems in place where we upload core creative and then when we need a different output with a different message, we ask the system to produce it versus requiring people to go build the exact specs of a particular outlay in a third-party distribution.”

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