Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vodafone Blue : For Facebook Lovers

Brand : Vodafone Blue
Company :Vodafone

Brand Analysis Count : 502

Vodafone Blue is a Facebook dedicated mobile phone from Vodafone. The brand is thoroughly interesting because of its unique positioning. Vodafone Blue was launched in September 2011 targeting the ultimate Facebook fan. 
It is not unusual for a mobile service provider to dabble into the hardware . But most of such launches went largely unnoticed by consumer. This bundling of hardware and software although very much popular in the Western market is not yet being popularized in the Indian market. 
Vodafone Blue is manufactured by Alcatel and is co-branded by Vodafone and Facebook. This brand is an example of co-branding between two service providers. India is witnessing a huge surge in social networking usage. Facebook is leading the pack with an estimated 33 million Indian users. Vodafone is a leading player in the Indian mobile telephony with an estimated subscriber base of around 143 million. So coming together to tap synergies is the aim of this co-branding exercise.

Since most of the mobile service providers are grappling with the issue of wafer-thin margins, data usage is being viewed as a revenue generation & survival opportunity by most players. The rise of popularity of social networking sites provides ample opportunity for mobile service providers to gain revenue and also increase subscriber base. Vodafone's interest in this venture will be to increase its data usage subscriptions. For Facebook, India is a crucial market both interms of users and also advertisers. Partnering with a major player like Vodafone will bring in more users and importantly more usage of its site. So on paper , everything sounds logical and good.

Vodafone Blue's USP is its tight integration with Facebook. The product can be said as a Facebook phone and the product is aiming to give a pure Facebook experience to the consumers. This is not the first brand to come out with a Facebook phone. Earlier HTC has launched HTC ChaCha brand with a dedicated  Facebook button. Vodafone Blue has product features like - dedicated F button, FB is always working on the background, easy sharing of photos and messages etc.

The big question is whether Indian consumer needs such a product that is heavily integrated to only one social networking site ? The product is a niche but only time will tell whether this product is going to have enough takers to justify its existence. It is true that Facebook is hugely popular in India but will a consumer be willing to shell out Rs4500 for a dedicated phone is  a doubtful proposition.
There are many good things about this phone. The hardware is decent so are the looks. But there are many other phones in the same price range that offers many more features than Vodafone Blue. Hence for an average consumer, Vodafone Blue may not be a compelling buy. 

Another interesting facet of this brand is its communication. The brand is running a high profile tvc for its launch.
Watch the ad here : Vodafone Blue 
The ad conceived and executed by Ogilvy  is being shot as a Broadway Musical. This is the first time that an Indian brand has taken up a Broadway musical theme. The ad was interesting as a first-watch then became too long and boring. 
Although the ad had some elements of creative brilliance, the purpose of the ad baffled me. Is that ad for Facebook or Vodafone Blue ? Do Facebook needs such a campaign explaining FB features ? Why such a long ad failed talk any single feature about the phone ?? 
According Business Standard,  the brand is targeting non-metro consumers. The brand feels that the next social networking wave will come from these tier II cities. In that case the advertisement is way off the mark. Secondly, the consumers who already are the users of FB need not be re-educated about FB features. So an expensive advertisement made to show creative brilliance and no strategy.

According to the reports, Vodafone is offering one year unlimited FB access to the buyers of Vodafone Blue. The phone comes locked with the service providers and the consumer has to chose a pre-paid plan for this phone to enjoy the FB services. 
I am no expert in forecasting the success of brand launches. Vodafone Blue is an interesting experiment in the social networking space. A dedicated social networking phone without over-focus on any one social networking site would have worked better, but here in the case of Vodafone Blue, it is a co-branding initiative. Time will tell whether this experiment was worth it or not.