Airtel: What creates the buzz?

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Marketing | February 19, 2009
For the fourth time in a row, Airtel has made it to the first position in the Buzz Polls. afaqs! finds out how

For the fourth year in a row, Airtel continues to be the brand that generated the most buzz in India. It truly proves that buzz is a byproduct of doing a whole lot of things in an exciting way. Three of the six judges voted for the brand. The percentage of voters who supported Airtel: 46.7 per cent.

afaqs! spoke to Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan (Chandru), head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel, to find out what is the significance of winning Buzziest Brands of the Year Poll 2009.

Radhakrishnan says, "It reinforces the buzz we have been able to create and sustain with the brand strategy that we have adopted. It's a proof of the execution being right and us walking towards the right direction."

So what kept the brand buzzing?

"The three factors helping brand Airtel achieve this position are - consumer focus, a clear marketing and advertising strategy and good quality execution. Clearly, the brand positioning has spoken the language of emotional connect and building human relationships," he says.

Year 2008 broke with the 'Breaking Barriers' campaign, which set off consumers talking about the brand on a good note. Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble's tiff proved to be a good opportunity for the brand to sponsor a column in one of the print publications, wherein the dialogue between the two cricketers resolving the issue was discussed.

The brand has had a number of talked-about TVCs as the Vidya Balan-R Madhavan ads, the launch of its DTH brand, Airtel digital TV, amongst much fanfare of celebrities, and capturing the off-screen relationship between actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor in its ad films. The commercial featuring actor Shreyas Talpade was distinct in its own way as it created a rural connect on an emotional note.

Its association with India's largest mobile handset brand, Nokia, was one of the largest ones witnessed by the country. Music director AR Rahman and actor Shah Rukh Khan gave testimony to this coming together. Nokia and Airtel tied up two years ago, and the deal is still very much on.

Talking about the strong quotient of celebrities in 2008, Chandru says, "We don't write scripts for celebrities - it's simply about picking the actors for the right roles."

On the media front, Airtel has sponsored television programmes and cricket to remain in the limelight. Reality show Bigg Boss, the India-Australia series as well as the India-England series are some of the media properties that the brand was associated with last year.

Apart from the brand and media space, Airtel has tried to grab a share in new areas, specifically with a focus on the rural markets. It has tied up with various organisations on a rural level to leverage the benefit of their distribution networks. To connect with the regional audience, it sponsored regional programmes in Tamil and Kannad languages.

Innovation has played a major role in helping salience, with music on demand, m-commerce, voice SMS and the Hello Tunes Search being some innovations adopted by the brand.

Going strong on its human connect, Airtel took the decision to sponsor the Delhi Marathon last year. Chandru reveals that associating the brand with properties such as this is a significant step for the brand's image. It has also sponsored the Kolkata Marathon for the past two years, as well as the Bengaluru Hubba for the past three years.

The brand has consistently adopted advertising to connect with its target group emotionally. The Airtel signature tune, courtesy AR Rahman, has been maintained for 13 years, despite the various reverberations that have given the brand a new form.

The buzz quotient, Chandru feels, becomes stronger when it's about the three Airtel brands under one umbrella - the telcom brand Airtel, its broadband services, as well as its DTH brand, Airtel digital TV. All three, according to him, lend themselves to the overall image of Airtel.

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