Moving with the times

Updated: Aug 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
Frame 1: A collage of images strung together depicting young people jumping, dancing, singing and celebrating.

Frame 2: Reliance Communications, the youngest, fastest and largest corporate in the telecom space.

The first thing that strikes one about Reliance Communications ongoing television campaign is that it is young, trendy and urbane. In a highly cluttered media environment, this spot easily stands out on account of its lilting tune and chic look. Of course, it has a point to make as well: The three-year-old service provider has just crossed the 2.5-crore (that is, 25 million) subscriber mark. That calls for a celebration. And hence the exuberance. Now, if all of this contributes in holding viewer attention then the credit for it goes to the strategy behind the campaign. The commercial moves away from Reliances pronounced mass-market stance. In that sense it is a clear break from the past.

The hero in the Reliance Communications ads during its early days (then called Reliance Infocomm) were ordinary citizens, who were wooed by the company with attractive rates and sundry freebies (remember the Kar Lo Duniya Mutthi Mein campaign in 2003). The shift is dramatic: it is the hip, trendy young men and wo- men who are the new focus of attention. Says Sanjay Behl, head of branding, Reliance Communications, The basic strategy of being mass is not going to change. That is inherent to any telecom service or brand. But we also belong to a young country. Most of our users, both in India and abroad, are young. They are individuals below 30. We needed to talk to this audience.

Despite growing rapidly over the last few years, image-wise Reliance has been stuck with the label of being downmarket. In a category, where most brands are aspirational, it was imperative for Reliance to make the transition, says Jagdeep Kapoor, chairman and managing director of Mumbai-based Samsika Marketing. Says Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer of Bangalore-based Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, Thanks to GSMs first mover advantage in the country, the former is viewed as sexy in comparison to CDMA. It was important for Reliance to address that fundamental problemmake it attractive, in other words.

Though a CDMA (or Code Division Multiple Access) operator, Reliance has made its intentions clearit wants to expand in the GSM (or Global System for Mobile Communication) space as well. But the challenges of being a CDMA operator remain. Worldwide, GSM is the more popular technology, and the trend is no different in India. On account of a headstart in the country, GSM brands like Hutch and Airtel have been able to evolve over time with a clear positioning and target audience.

Reliance advertisements, in contrast, have lacked a clear positioning-they have been mostly tactical and offer-driven. There was no brand curve as such to it; hence, it came to be identified with the masses than the classes, says a Delhi-based brand-marketing analyst.

Of course, Reliance has attempted to address that with the new campaign, which flows from the overall group makeover initiated a few months ago. For the record, in end-May this year, Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group had unveiled its new logo, following it up with a high-decibel corporate campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan. Continuity has been maintained with the popular signature tune and the red-blue corporate logo.

Both the company and Leo Burnett, Mumbai, the agency that conceived the current campaign, says this is merely the beginning of the revamped communication exercise. The current spot, says Prem Kamath, associate vice-president, Leo Burnett, will go off air shortly. As milestones are achieved, we will keep coming back with interesting adverts, he adds.

Apart from overhauling its image, Reliance Communications has also been working to improve penetration of CDMA with a range of handsets, besides, of course, lowering tariffs from time to time. For instance, says Bijoor, a small percentage of its handsets are priced in the Rs 12,000-15,000 bracket. A larger portion is priced between Rs 1,800 and Rs 2,500. This, according to observers, is a clear way of shoring up numbers in a market dominated by GSM.