Has the cutesy Vodafone pug been entrusted with a task too onerous to shoulder this time in the new brand campaign?
Sample these tweets:
- Dear Vodafone, your TVCs are awesome. Whether it's the pug or the latest pugs or even the Zoozoos. But your network is getting pathetic day by day...
- Vodafone follows you like a mad #pug and bites your pockets #TRAI keep trying!!!
- To get Vodafone Network in Delhi one has to stand on one leg, and pray to their Pug. I use both Airtel and Vodafone. Trying to port from Vodafone to Airtel for 3 months but they won't let me.
- Please send the #hutch #pug to Udyog Vhr, Gurugram to find us. 10+ days, no network. @VodafoneIN #nonetwork #Vodafone #isairtelbetter ?
Truth be told, this is a random sample of ‘real’ tweets for just one telecom operator. We are not for a minute implying that the situation is any better for users of other telecom networks. The network-providers are trying to make sense of the great Indian telecom revolution, what with the emergence and rapid expansion of Jio and the impending merger between Vodafone and Idea Cellular, which if and when it comes to pass, will boast a combined base of 40 crore mobile subscribers, making it the country’s largest network. Even as the contours of India’s biggest telecom company are being shaped behind closed doors – pending regulatory approvals – the pug has been summoned back once again. Actually, it is many pugs this time in Vodafone’s recently launched brand campaign.
What makes the narrative noteworthy is the fact that the fleet of pugs – or as they are called a grumble of pugs - has been entrusted with the task of backing the telecom provider’s burly claim of ‘a tower an hour’.
Obvious question: isn’t that too much load placed on the poor pug? Remember it is an ocean of less than satisfied customers out there, plagued on various accounts: call drops, patchy data and seemingly indifferent customer-service. At Vodafone galleries, people seem less concerned about the mood of the pug and more preoccupied with the vagaries of one’s mobile network.
All of which, may soon become a thing of the past. Says Siddharth Banerjee - executive vice president, marketing, Vodafone India, “The campaign has a simple but very strong RTB (reason to believe) “adding a tower every hour” is a symbolic proof point.” Vodafone in reality, is investing much more to enhance its network daily, so we are clear that the claim is deep-rooted in the intense network upgrade efforts we are already doing, he adds.
The Vodafone pug made its first appearance in 2003, to signal the brand’s transition from Hutch to Vodafone. Most recently it was brought back in 2016 to launch the telecom brand’s SuperNet 4G services. Banerjee believes it makes sense to utilise the pug, one of the more enduring brand icons, when we have a big network message to deliver. In this case, the task was to create a campaign to announce the brand’s 4G network getting stronger, every hour, backed by the addition of a tower every hour, shares Kiran Antony, executive creative director, Ogilvy India.
Traditionally the telecom-brands have always been hyper-active with their communication strategy and in establishing their differentiated brand-premise over the years – whether the established players like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular or even the smaller challenger brands like MTS, Aircel or Spice Telecom. According to Ambi Parameswaran, brand strategist & founder, Brand-Building.com, “as advertising goes, this campaign does well with the mix of bit of suspense, drama and finally the climax. However, the on-ground performance needs to now live up and that is going to be a challenge.” Adds Girish Trivedi, co-founder of Monk Consulting, a Gurgaon based research and advisory firm, “Unfortunately, service levels have not improved for any telecom service provider, and it’s not unique for Vodafone to boast about its operational efficiency to deliver and serve consumers expectations. This is a time when structuring, transition and merger are going on, so it makes sense to keep things simple, drift to the emotional side and use your best assets, shares Trivedi. Which for Vodafone brings it back to the pug or the ZooZoos or the newly discovered old couple.
Rajiv Rao, ex-NCD at Ogilvy India, who has been associated with the pug ever since its birth till he quit the agency late last year, believes that the pug is the face of the brand and has in fact helped the brand show its human side, to subscribers and non-subscriber alike. That the pug is one of the most endearing assets created by Vodafone is beyond doubt. Whether the brand at this stage of its life-cycle and also the category’s life stage, needed the pug to bear the burden, is the debatable part.