Wake Up Call

Last week was eventful in the Telecom Industry at least from a communication perspective.

Two of the largest telecom companies moved their creative agency.

Airtel moves from Rediffusion to JWT

Reliance moves to Grey

Is there a signal? Some observations:

Problem 1: Both brands have not had a great ‘last few campaigns’. Personally, I think it is because Airtel & Reliance have been trying to say too many things and somewhere down the line, barring the signature tune, there was nothing that connected the many communication pieces that was coming out of these behemoths.

Airtel had a campaign with SRK based on his life story and how he is connected with his friends. Loosely made TV based campaign, which was doing nothing to the brand. Their earlier messages were clear and crisp in terms of communicating the brand objectives / values to the consumer. The SRK commercial didn’t connect well.

Reliance on the other hand brought in Hrithik. I am still unable to make sense out of the TVCs made by Reliance using Hrithik. This proved to be a classic case of lazy communication by bringing in a celebrity. The opening up of the GSM platform for Reliance was a tremendous opportunity, which I think was not utilized properly by the brand team.

Problem 2:  The relationships have either gone sour between the agency and the marketers. With Airtel, the relationship is since inception of the brand. This kind of long relationship would obviously bring some moments where one takes another for granted. It could be from the client’s side or the agency’s side. Either ways, the relationship would obviously suffer. Having been the agency since the beginning is a tremendous advantage for Rediffusion, but alas, it is not meant to continue.

With Reliance the account was with Mudra for a long time (again since inception if I am right) although the brand seems to have flirted with Cartwheel for a short while. But it is better for them to settle down with an agency properly with a long term view else the sufferer will be the brand.

Familiarity breeds contempt seems to have happened in either cases.

Problem 3: I also believe that there has been a churn at the client’s end in both these cases. Chandru alias Chandrasekhar of Airtel quit the telco very recently. And there is very little clarity (at least in media) about the person who has taken over the mandate.

Reliance marketing team also seems to have gone through a churn. I know for a fact that they are in the process of getting their marketing head on board. Internally there has been a churn which seems to have ailed these brands.

Problem 4: Intense competition. Tata Docomo, Idea, Uninor, Videocon, Virgin and many more have started digging deep into their pockets to start communicating. New regulations including Number Portability is not helping the cause and is building immense pressure on all the brands to maintain market share.

Problem 5: Highly fragmented customers. Starting from a Rs.10/- recharge to a VAS customer with an average billing of about INR4000-5000 per month makes it difficult to maintain the consistency. Also, both these brands have tried to communicate more than one message at the same time. Typically the brand ambassadors or the messaging style / guideline for each message is very different thus creating dichotomy. On the other hand, though the brand communicates different kinds of services Vodafone has at least managed to create a property which could be milked for 3 years in a row. And all their messages followed the same route, thus bringing in some consistency with respect to the different kind of customers and the kind of messages sent across.

I sincerely hope that both these brands will correct themselves on these parameters and many more that I may have left out. It is important to get the act right here because continuous errors on this front will expedite the brand’s demise. I wouldn’t want to see either of these brands in the twilight zone. Probably the change of guard is just the first result of a wake-up call.

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