Case Study on Vodafone’s Re-Branding Strategies in India: Hutch to Vodafone

Launch of Vodafone Essar

Vodafone is the world’s leading international mobile communications company. It presently has operations in 25 countries across 5 continents and 40 partner networks with over 200 million customers worldwide. Vodafone has partnered with the Essar Group as its principal joint venture partner for the Indian market. The Essar Group is a diversified business corporation with interests spanning the manufacturing and service sectors like Steel, Energy, Power, Communications, Shipping & Logistics and Construction. The Group has an asset base of over Rs.400 billion and employs over 20,000 people.

Vodafone Essar was launched in India on 21st September 2007. Vodafone was welcomed in India with the “Hutch is now Vodafone” campaign. The popular and endearing brand Hutch was transitioned to Vodafone across India. This marked a significant chapter in the evolution of Vodafone as a dynamic and ever-growing brand. This brand unveiled nationally through a high profile campaign covering all important media.

Vodafone, the world’s leading mobile telecommunication company, completed the acquisition of Hutchison Essar in May 2007 and the company was formally renamed Vodafone Essar in July 2007. The transition from Hutch to Vodafone is probably the largest brand change ever undertaken in this country and arguably as big as any in the world. It is even larger than Hutch’s own previous brand transitions. The migration from Hutch to Vodafone was one of the fastest and most comprehensive brand transitions in the history of the Vodafone Group, with 400,000 multi brand outlets, over 350 Vodafone stores, over 1,000 mini stores, over 35 mobile stores and over 3,000 touch-points rebranded in two months, with 60% completed within 48 hours of the launch.

The Vodafone mission is to be the communications leader in an increasingly connected world – enriching customers’ lives, helping individuals, businesses and communities be more connected by delivering their total communication needs.

Vodafone’s Marketing Strategies: Hutch to Vodafone

Vodafone’s new advertising campaign in India carried on with the same popular pug that has become a brand ambassador for Hutch. ‘Where ever you go, our network follows,’ was the previous slogan with the pug following the child wherever he goes. Now, with Hutchison Essar becoming part of the Vodafone Group, the new campaign had started with Vodafone Essar earmarking Rs. 2.5 billion on the transition from Hutch to Vodafone. The main message of the brand transition exercise: The new Vodafone is the same old Hutch. In the advertisement, the pug sees a new home when it returns after an outing and feels the change is better. The new catch phrase will be ‘Make the most of now.’

Vodafone had tied up with Star India to run a complete roadblock of its fresh campaign on the entire network by unveiling the 24-hour nationwide rebranding campaign. Vodafone used all of the commercial airtime across all 13 channels in five languages (Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Marathi and English) from 9 pm on 20 September to 9 pm on September 21. This exercise included TV commercials, transition bumpers and contest spots to promote the Vodafone Essar brand. Commercial spots had also been purchased on Sony.

Conventionally awareness for a new brand takes some time to build. However, Vodafone wanted to achieve this task at the shortest possible time. Hence, Maxus and Star Network worked closely to address this challenge and came up with the idea wherein during the day of the launch a complete roadblock on the Star Network channels was conceptualized. Considering that the Star Network is the lead network in India, this was the most apt platform for Vodafone launch. This strategy helped not only in achieving build rapid brand awareness but also breaks the clutter during such an important launch in the most happening category – telecom. This is a first of its kind mega media initiative in India by any brand. While the campaign was heavy on television, it also included all other media vehicles. The print campaign kicked off on 21 September, a day after the television splash.

While the brand campaign had been addressing the transformation, the Company, on the other hand was swiftly preparing for a price war in the Indian telecom space. Indeed, it was preparing to provide mobile handsets to new subscribers at ultra-cheap prices, ranging from about $19 to $25.

Vodafone Essar launched low priced cell phones in India under the Vodafone brand, and also co-branded handsets sourced from major global vendors. By bringing in millions of low-cost handsets from across the globe into India, Vodafone Essar distributed bundled handsets through its existing 400,000 distribution outlets. By flooding the market with its low-cost handsets, Vodafone also became a mass mobile phone brand like Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson in addition to continuing as telecom services provider.

Previously, similar handset-driven expansion strategies to grow subscriber bases were adopted by CDMA players, like RCOM and Tata Teleservices. Vodafone is the first GSM operator to follow suit.

The Vodafone mission is to be the communications leader in an increasingly connected world – enriching customers’ lives, helping individuals, businesses and communities be more connected by delivering their total communication needs. Vodafone’s logo is a representation of that belief – The start of a new conversation, a trigger, a catalyst, a mark of true pioneering.

Vodafone’s Advertising Strategies: Hutch to Vodafone

Advertising is probably one of the most frequently used vehicles for Rebranding, as it is fairly easy, flexible and quick to change. It is a powerful way of reaching a broad or targeted audience quickly and is effective at signalling a change in positioning, however real or broad that may be. There are many examples of where advertising has either repositioned or strengthened brands, other good examples of where advertising has built a new position for a brand or built a strong emotional link with the public are where companies have created a sort of soap opera out of their advertising.

The Advertising agency of Hutch and now Vodafone, Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), had a two-fold task to achieve: announce the entry of Vodafone into India and highlight the metamorphosis of Hutch into Vodafone. O&M realised that they had a fantastic property in the Hutch pug, which they had been using for about five years. Therefore, to show the transition from Hutch to Vodafone, O&M launched a rather direct, thematic ad showing the trademark pug in a garden, moving out of a pink coloured kennel which symbolised Hutch making his way into a red one that is the Vodafone colour. A more energetic, chirpier version of the ‘You and I’ tune associated with Hutch was played towards the end, and it concludes with ‘Change is good. Hutch is now Vodafone’.

O&M has also rolled out four Commercials featuring Hutch’s animated boy and girl, ‘introducing’ the new brand’s logo to consumers. The four creatives which were of five seconds each included the duo peeping over a wall to see the logo; parasailing with the logo flying high behind them; releasing a rocket bomb wherein the explosion reveals the logo; and lastly, drawing curtains aside to show the logo.

Four other ads with the pug did the rounds of telly screens. These five and 10 second spots cast the dog in situations where he, literally, saw red, using the colour as a visual mnemonic to remember the brand by. The pug was shown in a red basket, popping up from a red cart, drying himself on a red mat, and hiding in a red blanket. Each of these made use of the ‘Hutch is now Vodafone’ tagline.

The print ads, in all major languages in several leading dailies, were kept unbelievably simple: a still shot of the pug inside a red kennel. The same creative was used in outdoor hoardings as well, in all the 16 circles in which Vodafone now operates.

It wasn’t easy integrating Vodafone with Hutch; the latter, as is known, is a subtle, understated brand, while globally, Vodafone represents high energy, dynamism and young vitality – all represented by its bright red speech mark logo. And so they put in elements such as a more energetic tune and feel to the ads.

A few advertisements include:

  • Hutch is now Vodafone: If you watch any of the star channels or tuned into 20-20 world cup, you would have seen this ad. On 11 February 2007, Vodafone agreed to acquire the controlling interest of 67% held by Cheung Kong Holdings in Hutch-Essar for US$11.1 billion and now had to rebrand itself so it has decided to run a new ad series which piggy banked on Hutch’s dog mascot and the theme “Change is Good”. This required nearly 250 crores of spending by Vodafone but they have successfully painted the town red. An interesting part of this campaign was on the opening day roadblock where they made a deal with Star India so that besides them no other commercials were aired (apart from in-channel promos) on the Star India’s channels for 24 hours.
  • Vodafone Valentine Day Special Ads: Vodafone had released a simple and sweet ad for musical greetings targeted at couples during the valentine week the feature of this campaign is its simplicity and believability and is quite well received. It uses the positioning “Make the most of now” enjoy the video
  • Vodafone Chota Credit Ink Ad: This new ad had come as refreshing change and more so that this ad takes a very refreshing look at school and at fountain pens. This ad creates a wonderfully subtle message which really puts the point of chota (small) credit across.

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