Case Study on Ad Campaign for Bharti AirTel: “Express Yourself”

Bharti-Airtel Groups, with a customer base of more than 121million subscriber, form the largest cellular service provider of India. The Bharti group is now the world’s third-largest, single-country mobile operator and sixth-largest integrated telecom operator. The groups cater the mobile service in India under the brand name of Airtel and are headed by Sunil Bharti Mittal, He is termed as the Indian Telecom Mogul because of his largest telecom service provider in India. He is the chairman and the managing director of the Bharti Groups. The company has a turnover of US$ 12 billion. The businesses at Bharti Airtel have always been structured into three individual strategic business units (SBU’s) – Mobile Services, Airtel Telemedia Services & Enterprise Services. The Company has a market share of around 24.6% of the whole chunk of the mobile subscriber in India followed by Reliance Communication with 17.7% and Vodafone by 17.4%.

Airtel has always looked at the overseas market also. The Bharti Groups always tried to take the brand of Airtel outside of India. To an extent it has been successful also in doing this as it has nearly started its operation in Srilanka and Bangladesh also under the brand name of Airtel. In December 2008, Bharti Airtel rolled out third generation services in Sri Lanka in association with Singapore Telecommunications. SingTel is a major player in the 3G space in Asia. It operates third generation networks in several markets across Asia. The operation of Airtel in Srilanka is under the name of Airtel-Srilanka. Recently in January,2010 it announced of its operation in Bangladesh.

“Express Yourself”

Over the last couple of years, the market has grown considerably, with deeper penetration and wider usage of voice and data services, accompanied by much higher competitive intensity,” Atul Bindal, chief marketing officer, Bharti TeleVentures, expands on this. “In this context, differentiating merely on network, coverage and SMS is just not enough. You need to go beyond all the rational identifiers – which are prerequisites in any case – and connect at a deeper level. We needed a strong differentiator in an increasingly commoditized and crowded market. We found this differentiator in a core human truth that defines our category – which is that there are moments when you need to make your point, when you need to be heard. Expressing and communicating are perhaps two of the most basic emotions. AirTel enables you to make your point in the most expressive way, anytime, anywhere. The campaign is towards owning this through ‘Express yourself.’ We believe ‘Express yourself’ allows us to connect at a deeper level and create a long-term platform for the brand.”

For AirTel, the challenge also lay in presenting a unified ‘face’ to the consumer. This assumes significance when viewed in the light of the company’s pre- and post-paid communication, which, in the past, had been treated very differently. Brand image, as a result, was being driven in two different dimensions. “Brand AirTel is a category leader straddling completely different market segments such as consumer, business and corporate, as well as different voice, data and payment platforms,” says Bindal. “‘Express yourself’ enables the brand to unify and connect across the entire base of our existing and prospective customers.”

One of the most obvious benefits of owning a property such as ‘candid expression’ (and ‘Express yourself’) is the expansive nature of the thought. “The moment you have as broad a canvas as ‘Express yourself’, it becomes easy for anyone working on the brand to come up with new ideas and executions. That’s what makes a good campaign idea,” observes Rediff’s Prashant Godbole, who, along with creative partner Zarvan Patel, conceived the campaign. This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, Patel adds. “We will be taking the idea forward in many different ways in the forthcoming work,” he informs. Patel also credits his creative team for “fleshing out the idea”.

In October 2002, Magic led the market, with 30% of the market share. Bharti claimed that its strategies were one of the most ambitious experiments ever in the Indian pre-paid cellular telephony market. However, given the increasing competitive pressure, doubts were being expressed regarding the ability of Bharti’s marketing initiatives to help Magic retain its ‘Magic’ in the future.

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