As a Marketing enthusiast, the work done by Airtel’s Marketing team over the past one year comes across to me as nothing short of crazily unplanned !! It seems that they are purposefully trying to confuse/irritate the consumer, by coming out with all kinds of things – logo change, overnight rebranding, new signature tune, a lot of new ads, with widely varying scripts – as if the underlying thought process is merely to cook up what we Indians know as ‘khichdi’
Let’s take it up from the beginning. Right after MTN acquisition, the top brass decided that the company needed a new logo, to symbolize its ‘youthfulness‘ and ‘multi-national flavour‘. What came out was popularly seen as a hideous mix of Vodafone and Videocon logos. The new logo added practically no value to the company or its image, especially given the kind of expenses incurred for the same.
The logo is one brand-element which symbolizes the brand the most, helping create conscious and sub-conscious imagery in the consumer mindspace, and this effort by Airtel is nothing short of disappointing. (Go through the following article; I personally believe that the explanations given for the logo changes are absolute rubbish: Business Standard Article on Logo Change )
I have mixed opinion on the new signature tune – The new one is okay, but the earlier one, in my view was far better. Too much of techno and international touch in the new one.
The positioning statement – Dil jo chahe, paas laye. This is among the most vague positionings that I have ever seen used in advertising. Based on the meaning of this statement, it seems that connectivity to others (friends, family etc) is the paramount USP of the telecom operator. I think that over the years, Airtel, along with Vodafone, has been able to successfully establish itself as a player with good network coverage. This factor does not need further reinforcement with the customer. Additional services, customer schemes/offers, VAS and 3G etc should have been the crux of their ads – something which Idea is actually able to do, through its ads which are, in general, pretty lame, but still manage to get the point across. View one ad by Idea here
(A couple of Airtel ads do talk about VAS, but their effectiveness is questionable, as I discuss below)
(C) Advertisements on TV
And now, let’s talk about the multiple different ads that they have launched in a short span of time. I have embedded two of them here, and provided links to the others – would recommend you to watch all, it will aid in understanding my point better:
The following are my pet grudges;
Had the ads been independently launched, with sufficient gap in between them allowing the customer to forget the older ad and replace it by a newer (but, related) one, I would have appreciated the ads. In isolation, they are good ads, but when you launch all of them in a short span of time, it will end up confusing the customer. We can’t really expect a time-constrained viewer flipping through channels to be able to connect ads featuring Shahrukh Khan, Saina Nehwal, and foreigners and form one coherent brand image out of it. What will form in his mindspace is nothing but, as mentioned above – meaningless khichdi.
So, after watching these all sorts of ads, the viewer ends up with a confused perception of what is being told to him. What is the point of appointing famous brand ambassadors at hefty prices when all they manage to do is send out a signal which is not getting a point coherently across.
2) Brand name-salience
Almost all the ads have 40-60 second airtime, followed by a 5 second mention of the service being talked about (international roaming, video call etc.) and the ad punchline (dil jo chahe paas laaye). I admit that the ads are well scripted, but as I often end up saying, it is likely that the ad-recall would be high but associated brand-recall would be low. And apart from keen marketeers who spot the brand name, this helps in no customer-recall of the brand. The brand name should have sufficient salience in the air time you have purchased
Along with this, the use of foreign models and settings for the ads, purportedly in an effort to add an international touch to the brand also seems to be a bit meaningless. Today, the customer has seen a lot of exotic locales in movies and Discovery channel. He isn’t impressed by ‘abroad’ settings any more in ads. The would have done better to focus on ‘international standards of service.’
All-in-all, it seems as if Airtel is trying to send across the message of its numerous services – 3G Internet, International Roaming, Video Calls etc., but since the ads are so different from each other in terms of their script/settings/ambassadors, it does not form one unified picture.
Take the case of Vodafone on the other hand. Their iconic zoozoo campaign had a lot many different ads (15+ if I am not mistaken), but since they were all in the same setup of animated white-coloured zoozoos in red/gray background, they were able to gel together (the fact that they espoused the vodafone colours helped as well)
Hence, Airtel’s acclaimed re-branding, undertaken over the past one year, has been a let down. Neither the new logo, nor the new positioning/tagline, nor their varied ads seemed to be working. They really need to sit back and look with ‘60,000 feet view’ on what they are doing, to coalesce everything they do into a inter-related unit. Else, their expenditures will continue going down the drain.