Vodafone brings back pug to fight the Airtel girl

By Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Published : March 16, 2016
The pug, one of Vodafone's most adorable and successful mascots, is back to promote the brand's 4G services.

Vodafone is back with the pug Cheeka, its most adorable and successful mascot. In a bid to promote its 4G network Vodafone SuperNet, the telecom major, in its latest television commercials, has taken on rival Airtel's popular 4G girl Sasha Chettri.

Sandeep Kataria

Siddharth Banerjee

Announcing the launch of Vodafone SuperNet, Sandeep Kataria, director, consumer, Vodafone India, in a press release, says, "Network plays a crucial role in enhancing customer experience. In our continuing endeavour to provide superior voice and data services in order to cater to evolving consumer needs, we have made significant investments to expand, upgrade and modernise our network across the country. We use multiple technologies to provide all-round benefits of a seamless network experience beyond just speed, to over 194 million customers across the country."

Elaborating on the communications strategy, Siddharth Banerjee, national head, brand communications and insights, Vodafone India, in a press release, says, "We are delighted to bring back our much-loved mascot Cheeka the pug, which is symbolic of our network. Research has shown that the endearing Vodafone pug has had one of the most impactful and long-standing connects with the Vodafone brand. Our communications strategy for this launch was to highlight the benefits of our seamless network and service experience and who better to announce it than Cheeka the pug!"

Communications Battle?

Saji Abraham, executive director, Lowe Lintas, says, "It will always be a communications battle. Airtel has 4G, as well as somebody else. So, how do you differentiate between different 4G brands? Assuming that the technology remains broadly the same and one 4G is not technically superior to another, nobody seems to communicate anything other than the generic benefits of 4G."

Abraham feels that no brand is talking about how the particular brand serves consumers better with the same technology. "For instance, Airtel is talking about faster downloads of movies and songs through a small SIM card. It is not saying that Airtel 4G is better," he says. But, at the same time, Abraham is hopeful that the Vodafone ad may be different. "It would be difficult to make statements because those are just teasers. They currently intrigue more than they fulfil and I guess that's their purpose. They are just saying Vodafone 4G is arriving and now we look forward to see what they say about Vodafone 4G," he says.

Abraham, who agrees that it is indeed a communications battle, says, "But, the battle will be about how 4G is made more relevant to people. At least, in my head where it stands, the 4G technology, from whatever I have read, is blazingly fast. It is a huge leap over 3G and is much faster. But, if people are used to 3G, where you have decent bandwidth and the internet is as good as in office, how will it be explained that 4G is faster, and moreover, how much faster?"

Saji Abraham

Anirban Chaudhury

According to Abraham, the trick in the 4G game will be to make faster internet more relevant to people. "If you look at Idea's 'No Ullu Banawing', you know that's the benefit of having internet on your phone. Now, Airtel is doing 4G ads which talk about how fast it is, and has done the downloading test. Reliance did some kind of a torture test for its dongle. But, there is a limit to how fast it can be," he says.

Abraham feels there would be creative ways of doing it. "Perhaps, some creative will standout more than the other, but I think the trick will be how you get people to subscribe to 4G and make it more relevant to them. Initially, people will subscribe, but then the realities of more data cost, and rumours of call drops in 4G due to fewer towers will surface," he says.

Anirban Chaudhury, senior vice-president and head of strategic planning, FCB Ulka, says, "The telecom sector has always been an exciting category for consumers to follow in India. If the focus of the incumbents were to highlight longer, cheaper talk-time or voice clarity in the yesteryears, with 3G the war on data has intensified. With 4G this war has further accentuated. Till now the data game has been played mainly on two aspects, the possibilities with a high speed network and the competitive claim at the speed of the network. Now comes the claim at another aspect of this service, in my view, keeping one of the key pain points of the consumers of 3G/ 4G network's inconsistent network strengths across the city or cities."

According to Chaudhury, the return of the Vodafone pug, the friendly faithful follower, is a reminder of the dependable widespread network claim that Vodafone endearingly made years ago. "It is their way of taking the fight to the next level, the level of consistent 4G networks," he says.

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