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Joseph Oates, Claro's new man for the market

Published:Monday | April 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Joseph Oates, marketing manager, Claro. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

Barbara Ellington, Lifestyle Editor

Claro is one of three telecommunications companies engaged in fierce competition for the cellphone business of Jamaicans. Since revolutionising the way people communicate some nine years ago, Digicel has raised the bar to a height that Claro and LIME are bent on toppling.

With that aim in mind, Joseph Oates, new marketing manager for Claro, is looking forward to, among other targets, getting wider coverage, expanding the company's dealer network and making wholesale cards available islandwide.

Oates spoke to Flair last week about his journey in the marketing arena to date, and how he hopes to stamp his mark in the telecommunications industry. He understands only too well that the typical Jamaican consumer remains loyal to a brand, as long as he/she does not feel bamboozled, and expects a good deal every day.

"It is not easy to get consumers to switch brand loyalty; they must feel that you are looking out for them every time; the consumer did not feel that way nine years ago and that made it easy for Digicel to gain consumer loyalty as soon as they arrived," Oates said. He said Claro must now connect to Jamaicans and let them see its authenticity, and in that regard he wants to offer something long-lasting along the journey to building a relationship with them.

Shy middle child

Oates who insists he's shy, is the middle child in a family of nine siblings and so he is no stranger to building meaningful relationships and making lasting connections. He found a special place in his mother's heart from very early by
accompanying her to church on Sundays. And, he grew up in Central
Village, St Catherine, one of the most populated parishes in the

Now, he is ready to take on Jamaica. Oates is
no stranger to challenges; he has studied while working (at times
teaching), all his adult life; sold his first business to pay part of
his tuition fees overseas and made the sacrifices necessary to gain his
MBA in London, England. He told Flair that the
overseas experience gave him a broader world view, took him out of his
little 'box' and gave him an appreciation for other

Oates is up to the challenge of tackling a
situation where connecting is not only about offering the lowest
cellphone rates but looking out for customers' well-being and making
them feel special.

His mandate: Let the consumer
understand and believe that Claro is the best value for their money.
"We keep saying it in our advertisements but we must make this
connection for the next 12 months and beyond in other ways. Our message
has to be tailor-made so that consumers see a difference between us and
the others." Oates stressed.

Having studied the nuts
and bolts in his chosen field to the master's degree level, Oates told
Flair that what he most enjoys about his job is
getting the message across and providing benefits to the consumer. "I
like the fact that there is a process to finding and defining a message
and influencing the consumer to choose my brand. Consumers now have a
choice of many products that cost roughly the same amount of money, so
choosing our brand is special," he said. He also gained valuable
experience at Diageo where he achieved major success with the Guinness
and Dragon Stout brands.


With Digicel having the edge on its
competitors in popularity and LIME being here first,
Flair asked Oates why he chose to work with Claro at
this time. He replied with candour, "Claro is in a growth mode; many
things were started before I got on board just under a month ago. It is
good to be a part of an organisation where I can influence what happens
and accelerate the growth," he said.

Oates noted
further that he was very excited to be offered the role that can make
him play a part in making a company number one. "And it won't be long
before we are number one. I am coming from Diageo where you have to do
a lot to maintain market share," he said. Oates said at Claro, he knows
who his key competitors are, so he has to focus strategies at

It's early days yet, but Oates relishes being
in a position to influence the consumer and beat the competitor. He is
also using these early days to develop a sponsorship strategy as, since
his arrival, he has received upwards of 50 requests for assistance per
week. "We are a Jamaica-friendly company so we are looking at sporting
activities to find some key areas to partner with. We just invested $60
million in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, so Jamaicans
will see that we are more than just giving away overseas trips or money
to one person. We will make connections with many people at once,"
Oates said.

Recently married, in his spare time Oates
who enjoys watching a game of cricket, hangs out at dances to catch the
pulse of the people. An avid reggae fan, he is involved with the
Jamaica Reggae Industry Association. Through this organisation, those
who love the music get a chance to influence developments. "We get to
share ideas with artistes, managers, promoters and other industry
insiders," he said.

In 10 years' time, Oates sees
himself owning his own business once again, as well as lecturing at the
University of

- barbara.ellington@gleanerjm.com