An office where the staff have an average age of 21 isn't what you would expect from a branch of a straight-laced corporate giant like Telecom.

But those at the helm of Telecom's youth-focused mobile brand "Skinny" say they have no plans to align its image with that of its "reliable" parent.

"Telecom's done pretty poorly in the prepaid [mobile] market and quite badly in Auckland and it had tried a few times and it really came back to the Telecom brand not resonating with the youth ... that's why [Skinny] started," said chief operating officer John Chester.

Rather than making its presence known in traditional media such as television, print or radio, Skinny markets itself heavily at festivals and concerts.


After soft-launching at Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne, Skinny has pushed its brand at more than 50 events this summer.

Skinny boss Paul O'Shannessey says that the approach has been to get youngpeople involved with branding from dayone.

"With youth you can't market at them, you need to market with them ... it's very much earned media rather than paid media.

"We've got a number of groups now of really influential kids in schools and post-school.

"So we'll have 100 kids in here maybe between the ages of 16 and 18 and another group of 100 from 18 to 20 and we ask them what they want.

"So they decide where we are going to be, what sort of events and how we're going to engage."

As well as collaborating with young people to shape its image, O'Shannessey said Skinny also worked with the youth market to tailor the product on offer.

"When we're talking plans and propositions we actually hand all that over, which is a pretty brave move for a telco."

Skinny standard calling rates of 39c a minute are the cheapest in the prepaid market.

Its bundle deals for calls, text messages and data - priced at $4 - were the cost of a cup of coffee "or two cheeseburgers", O'Shannessey said.

Although it is bankrolled by Telecom, the Skinny boss insists the operation has a low cost structure.

"We've got a tight budget, but we do a lot with it."

While Skinny is focusing on the youth market at present, Chester said the brand had its sights on a wider demographic.

"It's wider than the kids. Our observations around that is that a lot of parents defer to their kids in terms of mobile phone and mobile operator choices.

"Because they are much more savvy and spend their time looking at these things they [young people] can give their parents quite good advice."