Building Brand Airtel
The telecommunications industry in India has seen phenomenal growth over the past decade with the number of mobile subscribers currently in excess of 951 million.1 Airtel dominates this market with a 30.2% market share by revenue but the competition isn’t far behind. Vodafone is a close second with 22.7% market share by revenue and is showing a strong growth trajectory.2 However, with mobile penetration upwards of 75% there is little room for such exponential growth to continue and as a result, the mobile business in India has turned extremely competitive with one service provider outbidding another to provide the service at the lowest cost. At its peak, this had some service providers bring down mobile phone call rates to as low as 0.5paise/min (1/100th of a US cent)4. This called for a change in strategy and instead of fighting a price war, the service providers needed to establish themselves as a brand.
At this point, circa 2010, the competition had been chipping away at Airtel’s market share with every passing quarter. To be able to establish itself as a brand Airtel chose a theme and built everything else around it. It chose to project Airtel as a youthful and evocative brand. It unveiled the new Airtel logo to go with this theme and roped in the biggest stars in Bollywood and cricket, to endorse the brand. But in a country as diverse as India, with 28 states and 22 official languages it isn’t easy to appeal to everyone with the same strategy. Meanwhile, Vodafone was making the most of its global brand value and its ZooZoo campaign, which was a runaway success.
Airtel needed to change their branding strategy and decided to do away with the celebrity endorsements and launched what has probably been Airtel’s most successful branding campaign ever, the ‘Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hai’ or HFZ campaign (translated, it means “every friend is just as important”). The campaign started with a TVC but unlike the earlier ones, this did not have...
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