Orange. Pink. Red.

Written by Alokananda Chakraborty | Updated: Sep 27 2007, 03:44am hrs
As competition gets hot and sales begin to stagnate, companies often seek to breathe new life into a brand through the process of rebranding. Marketing history shows in all too many cases, such fervent rebranding efforts fail to bear the desired business results. Case in point Hindustan Ciba-Geigys Binaca toothpaste, which had to make way for Cibaca in the mid eighties. Twenty years on, both Binaca (bought later by Dabur) and Cibaca (bought out by Colgate Palmolive) are available in the market, but are nowhere near as popular as they were in their earlier avatar.

In such a scenario, whats the best way to rebrand something that has fantastic recall, great advertising (with unmissable outdoor campaigns), and a growing band of loyal customers Of course, there are no easy answers to this, but when you are left with no choice, you do what you got to do.

For Vodafonewhich had acquired 67% stake in Hutchison Essar from the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa a few months ago (the company was formally renamed Vodafone Essar in July 2007) with the stated aim of grabbing a piece of the fast-growing Indian mobile marketthe decision was simple. Brand Hutch had to make way for Vodafone, whose brand value is estimated at $21,107 million by MillwardBrowns 2007 Brandz, a ranking of the Top 100 Most Powerful Brands. But the big question was: How to transform Hutch to Vodafone in the shortest period of time

It was no less than a challenge. The transition was to cover 16 telecom circles, over 35 million customers, 4 lakh shops and thousands of employees of the erstwhile Hutch, which was Indias fourth-largest mobile service provider. The move was to also mark the transition from the deep pink logo of Hutchison-Essar to Vodafones trademark deep red speech mark introduced in 1998.

What made the job more complicated was the fact that in India, the brand Hutch itself has undergone several changes in the past (the last was in early 2006 when Hutch replaced Orange in Mumbai). I needed a campaign that will do the saliency building job very quickly, says Harit Nagpal, marketing and new business director, Vodafone Essar.

The job was done through a high-voltage advertising campaign in print and on television conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mathar (the agency that recently executed the Rs 50-crore UTI-to-Axis-Bank campaign). The print campaign, comprising front page solus ads in leading dailies in all major languages, were kept simple: the shot of Hutchs popular pug in a red kennel. The same creative was used outdoor in all the circles in which Vodafone now operates.

On television, it was virtual roadblock. Vodafone has reportedly spent Rs 14 crore to book prime time ad slots for the next few months on STAR and Sony. But the clincher was the innovation on STAR. For 24 hoursfrom 9.00 pm on September 20 to 9.00 pm on September 21only Vodafone ads aired across the STAR network channels. The advertising coup, Vodafone says, allows the telecom company direct access to 63 million TV viewers across 13 channels, in five languages.

The inaugural TV commercial showed the trademark pug (minus the boy) moving out of a pink kennel into a red one. An energetic version of Hutchs signature You and I tune played towards the end, as the super concluded, Change is good. Hutch is now Vodafone. There were four more commercials featuring Hutchs animated boy and girl, introducing the new brands logo to consumers.

My second task was to emphasise continuityto dispel apprehension among current subscribers, who may wonder if the new brand will continue the good work, says Nagpal. Naturally, the main thought behind the campaign, to borrow a phrase from Axis Bank, was nothing has changed, except the name.

The pug is the most endearing symbol of Hutch, adds Hephzibah Pathak, executive brand director (Vodafone), O&M. Our idea illustrates that the good things associated with us will continue while we build on our strong fundamentals. The strapline, Change is good, implies that even if a well-loved brand changes, there are always positive aspects to it in the long run.

According to industry estimates, Vodafone would have put in around Rs 150 crore into the first phase of the rebranding exercise (about Rs 60 crore in mass media and another Rs 90 crore in retail activities). Over the next one year, the brand is expected to something around Rs 300 crore in total, says an industry hand who has closely watched the communication strategy of ADAG in its first year (the ad spend in that case was around Rs 300 crore in the September 2005-April 2006 period).

Our plan was to take the first phase of the campaign through an entire fortnight, but I think our ads have already done their job, says Nagpal. I guess it will be restricted to 10 days now. The second phase will be rolled out by the weekend or early next week.

In the second phase, Vodafone will usher in its global straplineMake the most of now, which replaced How are you in 2001. The pug will continue to appear our ads that talk about the network and the animated characters will be present in ads that sell our value-added services, says Nagpal.