Vodafone Case Study: Painting Every Ghanaian Town Red

28 Oct 2010|Added Value

The challenge was laid down:  deliver – in just five months –  the successful brand migration of Vodafone’s first African acquisition.

We teamed up with Millward Brown, The Brand Union, Fitch, Ogilvy MMRS, Ogilvy Africa in a world class collaboration to do just that; combining a deep understanding of the brand with global brand thinking to discover great insights and deliver impactful, lasting change. And in the process created a WPP award winning case study for successful multi-agency integration.

Vodafone was not alone in its quest to put down roots in the African market. Others had spotted the opportunity and were fast on the telecoms giant’s heels to be first to market and benefit from all the commercial trimmings that brings.  It took just five months from the planning stage to transform a sleepy, state-owned mobile brand, loved as part of the very fabric of Ghana, into the vibrant, dynamic (and not forgetting red), brand that is undeniably Vodafone.

In fact, the launch itself gave a whole new meaning to “painting the town red” – 70 gallons of it. Across the country, every store, poster site, signage and street seller, carried the new branding and promoted the new offers. Vodafone had arrived in Ghana.

Success was sweet. Brand awareness ratings shot up from 0% to 96% in the first two weeks. Ghanaians engaged in the excitement, embracing Vodafone with open arms as 700,000 new subscribers joined in the first week alone. And behind the scenes, brand engagement work with 4,200 employees, repositioned and rebranded 3 category brands and 26 product brands in just 5 months.

What was the secret of this success?

For once this wasn’t just another example of an international brand stamping all over a locally loved company. Vodafone believes in being culturally sensitive to the local market they are about to embrace. A belief which makes good business sense. Connecting with consumers on a culturally relevant level can save a brand from being alienated right from the start.

Here the team fused consumer insights about the marketplace with local knowledge of Ghana’s culture, layered onto the global vision to create a marketing approach rooted in the global brand, but with a distinctive, relevant and local slant. A balancing act between protecting the local roots whilst bringing international expertise and innovation.

Team dynamics are more important than ever when the pressure is on. Each WPP agency involved in the process were clear on their role in making the brand migration a success, and joined seamlessly, as if they had been working together for years. Experts on the ground worked alongside the culturally knowledgeable, but less experienced local team, leading and coaching them in the process. So, when all the excitement died down, the local team was capable of maintaining the brand expression beyond the launch.

Consultants devised the strategy and provided guidance on every aspect of its delivery. The to-do list was lengthy; local strategy and positioning, retail strategy, identity rebrand, creative communications campaign, internal engagement programme.  It was a constant flow of mutual inspiration, connecting ideas and bringing them to life.

Taking on a brand migration project of this size was no mean feat. For brands considering this kind of effort, there are certainly some pitfalls to avoid in the process.

  • Be mindful of “new brand syndrome”, especially in emerging markets where unsophisticated or even totally inexistent systems are commonplace. Customers will get excited by the promise of a new, shiny world that will make their lives easier. But by overpromising what you can’t deliver could signal doom from the outset.  Creating a brilliant customer experience is one thing, but if the product just doesn’t work all that goodwill will be lost. Better to avoid that by doing the homework up front to deliver what is feasible.
  • Get to grips with the cultural nuances of the new market quickly through local knowledge and consumer insight. Having a clear steer on the culture will help to deliver an engaging strategy with relevant propositions that will start delivering a return on investment from day one.
  • The devil really is in the detail. Every step of the process needs to be given the rightful time and energy to do each justice. And with a high profile migration, key stakeholder interviews with those in the know will be worth every time saving penny in the knowledge gained.
  • It is pointless engaging in a rebrand programme if the team that will be left behind cannot sustain its long term delivery – and ultimate success. Coaching the incumbent team is a main part of the continued success after the launch dust has settled.

For more on the role of each WPP agency:

Added Value
We used our global Vodafone experience to come up with a positioning which respected local roots, powering them with global excellence. Experts facilitated the whole process and ran initial research with Ghanaian consumers to understand the best ways to culturally connect Vodafone’s positioning. The positioning was refined working with Millward Brown East Africa to test concepts and MMRS to create the local stimulus. The outcome was a motivating positioning supported by value propositions which made it feel real to local consumers and is still the markets best seller today.

Fitch and The Brand Union
Together created a brand identity which was true to the new positioning, reflecting both the global identity of Vodafone, with a local relevance. Once corporate looking Ghana Telecom shops were transformed into the vibrant Vodafone experience and 155,000 shops and 50,000 street sellers were rebranded around the country.

Ogilvy South Africa developed the campaign strategy that would result in a world class creative production, the likes of which Ghana had never seen before -an advertising campaign, promotional materials for all touchpoints, signage as well as internal engagement materials.

Millward Brown East Africa
Migrated all the insights systems and trained the new Vodafone team on the ground guiding the whole process with invaluable knowledge of African telecoms experience.

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