Vodafone, Idea converge into Vi in branding exercise amid telecom war

The relaunch is to have a combined brand identity and advertising around it | Photo: Website
Two of the country's popular telecom brands Vodafone and Idea ceased to exist on Monday after the two names were converged into 'Vi' in a branding exercise, which marked the final lap of the merger between the two companies.

"Vodafone Idea came together as a merged entity two years ago. We have, since then, focused on integrating two large networks, our people and processes. Today, I am delighted to present Vi, a unified brand," Ravinder Takkar, managing director and chief executive officer, Vodafone Idea, said in a virtual press conference.

Pronounced as 'we', the new brand, said Piyush Pandey, chief creative officer, worldwide and executive chairman, India, Ogilvy, was an apt 'metaphor' for the merger. Ogilvy is Vodafone Idea's ad agency. It conceptualised and executed the rebranding.

"Vi was created after combining the first two letters of Vodafone and Idea. Vi also signifies togetherness. This is a wonderful way of bringing the two brands together. However, it is the people who decide if advertising is great. I will celebrate when the people do, " Pandey said in a conversation with Business Standard.

Coming within days of Vodafone Idea deciding to raise up to Rs 25,000 crore in funds, experts warn that creating a new brand identity in a competitive market will not be easy.

"On paper, Vi is a good attempt to bring two brands together. But the telecom market has become so price-sensitive, that the differentiator is no longer brand imagery. It is how much value for money an operator can give a consumer. That is all that counts," said KV Sridhar, global chief creative officer, Nihilent Hypercollective.

The largest telecom operator in the country at the time of its merger, Vodafone Idea has steadily lost customers to Reliance Jio in the last two years. Jio now has nearly 400 million subscribers and provides voice and data plans at competitive rates. Jio, say experts, is credited with increasing the accessibility of mobile data in the country as well as pushing affordable Jio phones to consumers.

Bharti Airtel is the other key competitor in the market, having positioned itself as a brand that listens to people and addresses network and other related issues. Airtel's latest ad campaign, for instance, speaks about how the brand wishes to resolve every customer query and learn from its mistakes.

K S Chakravarthy, co-founder and chief creative officer, Tidal7 Brand and Digital, says Vi will have to identify a unique selling proposition amid two strong rivals.

"Vi will have to say something very distinct, if it has to stand out in a market, where one rival is offering the best price and the other is speaking about resolving connectivity issues. This is by no means easy because identifying new talking points in a cut-throat market such as telecom is a challenge," he said.

Yet, Vodafone Idea appears to have made up its mind on doing just that, with Thakkar saying that brand integration would help the firm offer an enhanced digital experience.

"The brand unification sets us on our future journey to offer world class digital experiences on our 4G network," he said.

Some experts say that Ogilvy, a long-time agency partner of Vodafone, may dip into its marketing manual and experience for the current iteration, having executed four transitions in the past for the brand.

First launched as Max Touch in 1994, the telecom brand became Orange in 2000, making way for Hutch in 2005, which eventually changed to Vodafone in 2007. Vodafone was positioned as a premium brand, while Idea had mass appeal.

Those lines have now got blurred with Vi.


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