Aishwarya Ramesh

"It’s definitely going to take some time getting used to": Kavita Nair, Vi, on new identity

Beyond aesthetic and visual language, Vodafone Idea's new identity - 'Vi' - is a complete brand overhaul. How will the consumers view it?

Kavita Nair, chief digital transformation and brand officer, 'Vi' (Vodafone Idea's new identity), admits that if someone had told her that she’d have to remotely launch a new brand without meeting anyone in 2020, she would’ve dismissed the idea as impossible.

Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit and India went under lockdown – with many offices working remotely to prevent the virus’ spread. “Remote working is going to be the new normal,” she says.

Nair adds that network integration and other technical nuances were considered as important first steps to integrate both the brands, and they decided to communicate to the consumers about the brand only after that.

Kavita Nair
Kavita Nair

“It’s definitely going to take some time getting used to. That’s why we focused on togetherness in the execution of the communication (in the ad by Ogilvy.) We also used sonic branding to establish the new brand name and create awareness,” says Nair.

She adds that irrespective of whether a customer is from a rural or an urban setting – the company considered it important that the brand name and message is easily understood. The new identity and logo has been designed and created by agency Wolff Olins.

“Right now, people in India are moving away from the era of chasing success and into the era of chasing significance, and Vodafone is trying to cater to those needs and aspirations,” Nair says.

Sujata Keshavan, founder and creative director at Varana Design opines that when it comes to Vodafone and Idea coming together, making people pronounce V and I as ‘We’ is actually counter-intuitive; it’s a bit strange.

“Vodafone’s line used to be ‘you and I’ [in this beautiful world] so perhaps they are attempting to take the sentiment of partnership forward using the “We”. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it ‘We’ when visually it reads as ‘V’ and ‘I’,” she says.

She adds that Vodafone and Idea were two very different brands - not just visually, even the brand positioning and personas were distinctly different. “By using the first letters of the alphabet, the V and I, it doesn’t appear that any of that visual equity is being retained. Vodafone had an extremely smart and strong brand identity. There is the red from Vodafone, but it is difficult to own a colour since Airtel too is red,” says Keshavan.

Sujata Keshavan
Sujata Keshavan

Keshavan is a design veteran, who has worked on naming and creating brands like Vistara,in the past. She founded ray+keshavan – a design led agency - in 1989 in partnership with her former boss at JWT – the late Ram Ray.

She wonders if perhaps an altogether new name and a new blue sky brand with a new visual language would have released them from the constraints of harking back to the parent brands, and enabled the company to arrive at something more contemporary and exciting.

“To be honest, this logo already looks a bit dated. Right from the typography to the overall look and feel. It doesn’t look contemporary. When designing a new logo, it’s important to keep in mind that it has to still look relevant and contemporary ten or more years later,” she says.

Keshavan adds that the logo is just one aspect of the overall identity of the brand. “Going forward the company would need to create through its communication, a brand personality that is strong, memorable and contemporary, something that could potentially override the logo itself,” she concludes.

Prasanna Sankhe, co-founder, HYPHEN and TBCC, opines that if the brief of the identity exercise was simply to do a half-half representation of the two brands in this unified entity, then the identity works.

“But then again, there was a two- year time span, and plenty of PR, which has already communicated that comprehensively. So, the objective of this identity exercise seems to be a bit too simplistic. And, therefore, even the identity becomes just that – basic,” he says.

Prasanna Sankhe
Prasanna Sankhe

He adds that when the merger was announced in 2018, the entire nation and some pockets of the world were also taking notice to see what corporate entity is going to spring up as the largest telecom provider in India.

"Personally to me, after a wait of two years, where there was all the time to figure out how the brand was going to reincarnate, this identity reveal was a disappointment," mentions Sankhe.

He explains that before the collaboration, Vodafone, which had a strong premium urban brand following, and Idea had a 'desi-suave' mass rural appeal.

"Both brands seemed to have been given the short end of stick in the new visual representation. The identity doesn't take a stand, or a finite direction that the unified brand wants to take. The point being that the new brand could have chosen to be a continuation of either one spectrum of cool, as was expected. But it ends up being a middle of the road solution," he adds.

Sankhe breaks it down into four basic pointers:

Does it have a short name that can be remembered? Yes.

Does it have representation of both brands? Yes.

Does it have design issues? Yes.

But, most importantly, does it have the coolness, or the magic of either of its parent brands? No.

Sankhe mentions that it seems this identity is a median solution because most probably there was a cacophony of 10 voices standing behind the designer trying to arrive at a consensus.

He believes that the choice of name is correct (from the collective ‘We’) for the brand to appeal to the masses. But besides having some basic graphic design issues, the elements of this identity aren't forming a cohesive story around the brand. "It feels like a giant missed opportunity," he opines.

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