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In-depth: Vodafone Idea’s unified brand identity ‘Vi’ — appealing or appalling?

While some referred the new brand identity ad film as an earworm, others said the overzealous media plan was ad nauseam. talks to creatives and experts to do an in-depth examination of Ogilvy’s execution and discusses how the re-branding will carry forward the ethos of both brands

As soon as Vodafone Idea unveiled its new brand identity ‘Vi’ two days ago, experts and audiences alike lost no time in offering their reviews and reactions on social media.

Also read: Star India signs Vi as fifth co-presenting sponsor of IPL 2020

The launch film and logo received flak from some. But for others, it was a creative achievement of sorts as the two brands finally had a common logo two years after their merger.

Ogilvy has done the rebranding exercise for the brand. The agency has been working with Vodafone for many years, even when it was known as Hutch (for the pug campaign) and later Vodafone (for the ZooZoo commercials).

Hirol Gandhi

Hirol Gandhi, President and Integrated Team Leader at Ogilvy India, said there were two key tasks for the launch communication.

First was to establish awareness and a recall for the new brand, and also to pronounce it correctly. Second, to tell the whole world about the transition: Vodafone and Idea are now Vi. 

“The launch communication showcases people from all walks of life, coming together to welcome this new brand and herald a better, brighter tomorrow,” he said.

So, how much does the logo communicate?

Arnab Ray

Arnab Ray, Creative Director at Landor, feels one has to look at the new logo without the baggage of Vodafone and Idea.

“We have to look at it like a totally new brand called Vi. It does a decent job of capturing the essence of the brand. It gives an essence of a lively digital-first brand. The red is bold and striking (reminiscent of Vodafone red) but I feel it is more of an aesthetic call than a business one. And the touch of yellow does well to add that bit of excitement in the exclamation mark,” he said. 

But is it iconic?

In his opinion, not really!

“Not a fresh idea. The ‘I’ turned upside down to form ‘!’ is not new. Incredible !ndia came way back but then we know it comes from the idea logo. The identity does not feel resolved. Makes me start thinking about how it could be better immediately. There seems to be a lack of cohesiveness — the flowy graphics versus the sharp logo formation in the end tell two different stories. The circle at the bottom may create some uncomfortable space in smaller applications like icon, DP, which is so important from a consumer touch point, but I am looking forward to discover more from the brand’s identity in time and see how Vi unfolds,” he said.

Manoj Deb

Manoj Deb, Founder, Venacava, feels that with the new logo, there's not much brand personality created.

He said, “I'm surprised they haven't used the inverted comma, which is one of the strongest elements of Vodafone, and chose the V and ! of IDEA instead. I don't know how many of us can relate to it. While merging two brands there should be proper balance and utilization of both the brands' properties to leverage the equity of those brands. I don't see this here. Also, I'm not sure if using red as the main color helps.”

Kapil Arora

Kapil Arora, Co-Chairman and CEO at 82.5 Communications, said that the new logo does a good job carrying forward the ethos of the Vodafone and Idea. The playfulness in the dynamic versions of the logo is nice and contemporary as well, he said.

Vodafone has always had a legacy of being strong on branding. Even in the early days, when the brand was called Orange, they did some path-breaking brand identity work.

Nisha Sampath

In that sense, the new identity 'Vi', according to Nisha Sampath, Managing Partner at Bright Angles Consulting LLP, is just continuing the tradition.

Also, it's interesting to note that no other telecom brand in India has undergone so many identity changes.

She found the logo to be young, vibrant and dynamic. Definitely more suited to the digital era than the old one, which was more sedate and corporate.

Ashish Khazanchi

For Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner at Enormous, the design leaves a lot to be desired.

“Vodafone as a brand has historically excelled in their design thinking, this logo seems to have been made by lawyers in their free time more than by some capable designers. A good design should have brought the values of the two brands together. The earthiness of idea and the emotional connect of Vodafone. This one has all the desirable qualities that an intravenous (iv) serum brand should have had, with the alphabets reversed, of course,” he said.

Malvika Mehra

Malvika Mehra, Founder and Creative Director, Tomorrow Creative Lab, personally, is not a big fan of the logo or the name.

“While I understand the logic of combining the letters V and I, to cleverly cue ‘we’ for a brand merger and the use of red and yellow borrowing from the earlier identities of Vodafone and Idea, I think it’s missing the magic. And also looking a tad clunky — cueing too many things — a medallion, the Roman numeral VI included. Here was an opportunity for Vodafone Idea to actually shed old baggage and create something totally fresh and exciting, including a name that need not have been so pat,” she added.

Undoubtedly, a brand is so much more than just a logo.

Ajay Gahlaut

Ajay Gahlaut, Independent Creative, thinks it will take time for people to get used to the new Vodafone/Idea identity.

As the new brand communication unfolds and the consumers get to experience the brand for themselves, the Vodafone-Idea brand will begin to take shape in people’s minds, he added.

Lloyd Mathias

Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and former telecom and technology executive, said the logo change was inevitable given that the new JV could not continue to use the Vodafone logo beyond a certain period with Vodafone PLC having under 50% shareholding.

And for him, the new logo is nice, simplistic, quirky, easy and on the tongue and takes on the existing legacy of both Vodafone and Idea.

Does the launch film deserve this kind of flak on social media?

For Ray, the launch film is a simple and clear way to bring the launch the new brand Vi.

The 45-second film just mentions the name ‘Vi’ multiple times along with the music. For some, it is irritating.

However, he feels the strategic intent was to hammer in the new name in an interesting manner which the brand is able to do well.

“It’s not spectacular or disruptive but it does the job well. Also, let’s remember that work on Vodafone alone may have appealed to a certain TG. Now the TG is much wider with the inclusion of Idea. Hence the communication has to work well with a much larger audience. From a messaging point of view, ‘Together’ is a premise that has been visited a few times. But then I guess it comes together well for this particular purpose and is summed up well when we see togetherness is a wonderful thing. Point to note is that it is a message of togetherness at a time where social distancing is the norm. Rest assured, the advertising for the brand is in safe hands when it comes to Ogilvy as they have always been brilliant. Look forward to more on this from them,” he said.

Khazanchi, who personally loved the film, thinks the ad got put paid by overzealousness of the media plan.

The video:

“If the Happydent ad got beamed to me after every 10 minutes, I would hate that too. Advertising is intrusive, there’s only so much intrusiveness that we give a licence for. They have an unenviable task of making the transition from two very strong entrenched brand names to shift to a totally new one and get the millions upon millions of their consumers and potential customers to get familiar with it in the shortest possible time. That's why the repetition of the brand name in the film, the heavy rotation of the spot on television and digital. But we know another term that is closely associated with repetition — ad nauseum,” he said.

Although Mehra thinks the film delivers on the task of introducing the new identity and name.

She said, “It’s sticky in a weird sort of way. My humble guess on why it’s probably drawing flak is because our new, smart Indian consumer has begun to look for stories and punch lines in ads too and there seems to be no apparent answer here to ‘But what’s the idea Sirji?’ It’s a tad subliminal, which is not everybody’s cup of tea I guess.”

Of all the brand communications that Gahlaut has come across of late, he found the Vi film well-conceived and executed.

The primary task of the launch communication was to establish the brand name and the ubiquity of its influence. And showcasing users from across the length and breadth of the country, embracing that identity, is a nice way of delivering that message.

Thus, for Arora, the Vi part is an ear worm, which he suspects will help people remember the new brand name.

“One must also remember that this communication and the entire new identity creation and rollout is happening during the lockdown and its aftermath. Just the scale of that effort deserves a hats-off,” he added.

To work over the equity of two big brands in Vodafone and Idea, knowing Vi as fresh new offering is really important and perhaps to that effect, Ray says, the communication has been strategised well.

Even Mathias said the TV spot is nice and refreshing and in tune with the old Vodafone approach of simple no-nonsense communication.

Sadly, though, the days of telecom customers swayed by cutesy advertising is long gone!

Sampath, too, agreed that the ad is catchy and effectively drives home a dual message — about the change in identity, as well as the pronunciation as 'we' and hence, the value of togetherness.

Also, experts had been debating that both the brands should have moved towards an integrated brand soon after the merger.

As now they decided to unfold the new identity, it will be interesting to see how consumers perceive it and whether it is successfully able to draw positive attention.

Impact of new identity on consumers

The market dynamics have changed dramatically in the last three to four years, including the fact that these two brands had to move, because of those dynamics, towards a merger.

The market is fiercer now and what worked five years back may at least need a re-examination. What, however, this merged brand should not leave is the emotional equity that they have enjoyed with the customers, Khazanchi said.

Going by the online chatter, Gahlaut said one can safely assume that Vodafone-Idea has made an impact with the launch of the new integrated brand and is, by all accounts, garnering a lot of attention.

Everyone is entitled to their views, but the ones carrying the can are the ones who are most aware of the ground realities.

And having helped the transition of Hutch to Vodafone, Arora said the complexity is much beyond the brand alone — all the way from regulatory to people issues that need to be managed first.

But much beyond an integrated brand, according to Mathias, the company will need to focus on pricing and improving its services, as a lot of the customer loss from both Vodafone and Idea has happened due to the more aggressive pricing and offerings from competitors Jio and Airtel.

“One hopes they use the fresh noticeability the rebranding gives them to convey to consumers improvement in services, pricing and product offerings. This, of course, will have to be backed up by a real difference in terms of a strong and reliable network. This is the only way the loss in subscribers will be arrested,” he added.

Vi needs to quickly ramp up its network coverage infrastructure, and get down to more competitive products and pricing to compete aggressively with Jio and Airtel, which seem to have stolen a march over the past two years.

“There has been a spike in overall internet traffic as well as streaming. Hence we are paying more attention to the quality of our connectivity at this time. With the identity change, Vi can hope to build an image as a new-age, customer-centric, future-ready network,” Sampath said.

Agreeing that there will be some social backlash since both these brands have a huge loyal customer base, Deb said that with time people will get on with their lives and slowly get used to the new V!.

“Especially since we are getting bombarded with this new brand identity all the time, across various channels & platforms. The question still remains. Have we missed an opportunity to create something new and fresh?,” he said.

While it's nice to put out a catchy ad, the brand also needs to walk the talk, if it wants to stand for the new values it seeks to portray.

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