Vodafone brand strategy / positioning case study

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Vodafone Brand Strategy Analysis
Vodafone
ABOUT

Category:
Telecommunications; Media & entertainmentTV & Internet providers

Owner of the brand:
Vodafone Group plc

Key competitors:
EE, O2, Three, Orange, Virgin, Sky, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint

Brand essence

Connecting for a better future.

Brand values

Innovation, empowerment, optimism, sustainability.

Brand character

Pioneering, innovative, human, joyful, positive.

Dominating archetype
EVIDENCE
Comments
1

Vodafone was launched in the UK in the early 1980s as Racal Telecom and rebranded a few years later to its current name. The Vodafone brand is active in more than 30 countries via companies owned and operated by the Vodafone Group, as well as through various joint ventures. The Vodafone Group also has multiple partnerships with local telecom companies in which it doesn’t have an equity stake[1], even though some of these companies are operated under the Vodafone brand (e.g., Vodafone Ukraine). The Vodafone consumer brand is not present in the US; only Vodafone enterprise solutions[2] are available in this market. However, until 2013, the Vodafone Group had a 45% stake in Verizon, one of the biggest mobile (wireless) operators in the country.

2

In the last 20 years Vodafone has changed its positioning a few times, with the three biggest changes taking place in 2009, 2017 and 2021. Before 2009, Vodafone didn’t have a global brand strategy and until then it had run only one global campaign (“How Are You?”[3]) in 2001. The brand altered its approach in 2009, when it started introducing changes to its business strategy. Vodafone put a stronger emphasis on generating a higher revenue from mobile internet and data usage rather than calls and texts and on moving its customers from regular mobile phones to smartphones[4]. The brand strategy which was launched at that time was encapsulated in the brand’s tagline, “Power to you” (which substituted the previous “Make the most of now”). Vodafone’s CEO, Vittorio Colao explained the positioning to The Sunday Times: “It is not the brand talking any more and telling the customer what to do. It is the customer who will decide. I am trying to steer the whole company in this direction.”[5]

3

In 2017, Vodafone announced a new global brand strategy, the core of which lay in the belief that new technologies would continue to have a positive impact on society and therefore, people should be optimistic about the future. Vodafone saw its role as helping customers embrace new technologies and making them simple and useful. This positioning was the result of research Vodafone had conducted in 17 countries[6] and was brought to life through refreshed branding, a new tagline – “The future is exciting. Ready?” (which to some extent resembled the old Orange tagline: “The future is bright, the future is Orange”) and image campaign[7] which showed how technology has changed over time, while the need for the human interaction remained the same[8]. Vodafone Group’s Chief Commercial Operations and Strategy Officer, Serpil Timuray said in the company’s press release: “We believe there are very good reasons to be optimistic about the future as emerging innovations in science and technology begin to have a profoundly positive impact on society. Vodafone has a long and proud history of bringing new technologies to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, enhancing quality of life and transforming the workplace. Our new brand positioning is intended to embody Vodafone’s mission and purpose to help our customers and communities adapt and prosper as these remarkable new trends reshape the world.[9]

4

In 2021, Vodafone announced an update to its brand strategy. The main shift consists in the company’s revisioning of  the role of technology as being wider and more meaningful than previously considered. While the core theme of the company’s 2017 positioning was optimism and excitement related to progress delivered by various advances in technology, the new approach, encapsulated in a new tagline, “Together we can”, emphasizes the role of technology in driving sustainability and changing humanity for the better. Anne Stilling, Vodafone Global Director of Brand and Media, said that the previous brand strategy was “very much around the fascinating stuff we can do with technology[10], while the new positioning accentuates that technology “has a bigger role to play – keeping people connected in lockdown, keeping the business going[11] and that Vodafone needs to ”acknowledge the new role that technology has and also acknowledge the responsibility that comes for a company that now plays such a vital role in our everyday lives and in keeping people and relationships going. [12] The company’s purpose (“to connect for a better future”) is supported by three pillars: “digital society, inclusion for all and planet”[13].

5

Vodafone has launched a few endorsed and independent brands, which either target audiences that the main umbrella brand doesn’t resonate with (e.g., youth) or which represent the company’s effort to enter new categories. For example, in a number of countries, Vodafone has separate telecom brands for young people, such as Yorn[14] in Portugal and Voxi[15] in the UK, and in 2017 it launched V by Vodafone – a consumer IoT (Internet of Things) service, now called Vodafone Smart Tech.

6

Vodafone’s positioning reflects the narrative typical of the Innocent brand archetype – the brand is optimistic about the future and believes that new technologies are good for people as they will make their lives better.

7

Dominant color: red.

Tagline
Most important campaigns

1. “Those You Trust, Trust Vodafone To Keep Them Connected” (2022)

2. “Together We Can” (2021)

3. “Interstellar Rescue” (2018, UK)

4. “The Future Is Exciting. Ready?” (2017)

5. “Power To You” (2010, UK)

6. “How Are You?” (2001)

Official brand statement:

Our purpose – to connect for a better future by enabling inclusive and sustainable digital societies – serves as the framework for what we do at Vodafone.

This is supported by our three purpose pillars: Digital society, Inclusion for all and Planet.
Each pillar is responsible for a range of key focus areas that seek to respond to evolving socio-economic challenges and to society’s needs.
Vodafone’s social contract helps us drive forward and activate our purpose initiatives across all corners of the business. Launched in 2019, our social contract is the umbrella name for the difference we make in supporting society and the planet.
Our purpose pillars also underpin our new brand positioning: ‘Together we can’.Through this, we outline our belief that technology and innovation can help millions of people and their communities to stay connected. We feel positively about the opportunity technology gives us all when combined with the right human spirit.
[16]

Interesting facts:

The name Vodafone was created by the combination of three words: voice (“vo”), data (“da”) and phone (“fone”).[17]

Must-reads

1. Campaign on the “Those You Trust, Trust Vodafone To Keep Them Connected” campaign
C. Rawlings, “Vodafone Campaign Puts Emergency Services In The Spotlight”, Campaign, Aug 2022,
https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/vodafone-campaign-puts-emergency-services-spotlight/1796221 

2. Campaign on Vodafone’s new brand strategy
G. Spanier, “Vodafone Unveils ‘Together We Can’ As New Global Brand Positioning”, Campaign, Mar 2021,
https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/vodafone-unveils-together-can-new-global-brand-positioning/1711526 

3. The Drum on Vodafone’s new communications strategy
J. Faull, “Vodafone’s Marketing Boss Makes Her Mark With Rebrand Ditching Martin Freeman”, The Drum, Jul 2019,
https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/07/19/vodafone-s-marketing-boss-makes-her-mark-with-rebrand-ditching-martin-freeman

4. Marketing Week on Vodafone’s positioning
S. Vizard, “Vodafone Revamps Positioning As It Moves On From ‘Power To You’”, Marketing Week, Oct 2017,
https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/10/05/vodafone-reveals-new-brand-positioning-scraps-power/

Sources:
References:
  1. http://www.vodafone.com/content/index/about/where.html#
  2. https://www.vodafone.com/business/why-vodafone/about-us/global-enterprise?ecmp=dotcom_americas_vge_us&src=dotcom_americas_vge_us
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnZD2A47LbE
  4. A. Cassidy, “Vodafone Revamps Brand To Reflect Customer Power”, Campaign, Sep 2009, https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/vodafone-revamps-brand-reflect-customer-power/939741
  5. J. Ashton, “Vodafone Chief Executive Vittorio Colao Powers Up Marketing Offensive”, The Sunday Times, Sep 2009, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vodafone-chief-executive-vittorio-colao-powers-up-marketing-offensive-mj2382bcdlb
  6. “Vodafone Announces New Brand Positioning Strategy”, Vodafone, Oct 2017, http://www.vodafone.com/content/index/media/vodafone-group-releases/2017/vodafone-announces-new-brand-positioning-strategy.html#
  7. S. Vizard, “Vodafone Revamps Positioning As It Moves On From ‘Power To You’”, Marketing Week, Oct 2017, https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/10/05/vodafone-reveals-new-brand-positioning-scraps-power/
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. G. Spanier, “Vodafone Unveils ‘Together We Can’ As New Global Brand Positioning”, Campaign, Mar 2021, https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/vodafone-unveils-together-can-new-global-brand-positioning/1711526
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. https://www.vodafone.com/sustainable-business/our-purpose-pillars
  14. https://www.yorn.net
  15. https://www.voxi.co.uk
  16. https://www.vodafone.com/our-purpose
  17. https://archive.is/20120720035452/http://online.vodafone.co.uk/dispatch/Portal/appmanager/vodafone/wrp?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=template09&pageID=PAV_0015&tabIndex=3
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