To Cash in on Humour and Brilliance


How many of us own dogs, love them, some of us know all the breeds; we all love Labradors unanimously and German shepherds are their only substitutes. But suddenly, in the past few years, a strange looking, endearing and energetic dog crossed our mind every now and then. It was the pug; made famous by Hutch, a Telecom Company in India. It used a dog, very successfully, as a brand ambassador, in turn giving the dog enough popularity. But it got fame only with the name of the company attached to it. People “coochi-cood” as the dog appeared, they laughed at its clever wit, its very engaging storyline and would recall it frequently in casual banter. The branding strategy was brilliant; it stayed on the mind for long. It challenged the rival companies, everyone pushing to invent a better storyline, a better star, a better ad- campaign. But Hutch, even after it changed to Vodafone, retained its freshness and its innovation.

Initially in the 1990s, Hutchinson Whampoa which established Hutchinson Max grew its range in the India telecom market and was licensed to provide its services only in Mumbai. It slowly moved on to other dense urban centers like Delhi and Kolkata. Hutchinson was acquired by the UK based Vodafone group on 11th February, 2007. Now, Vodafone Essar is a USD 18.8 billion company, with Vodafone acquiring 52% of its stake, Essar retaining 33% and the rest belonging to other Indian nationals. It was the largest foreign investment in India till date.

Vodafone, one of the largest cell phone telecom giants in the world, has displayed brilliant marketing strategies in the past. As most of the brands like to be associated with organizations that display excellence, it has a tie up with the renowned football club, Manchester United and now all their shirts sport a Vodafone logo. Manchester United represents vitality, youth and change. Vodafone signified everything they stood for. The dual branding with an already established and successful name helped Vodafone get noticed in countries it was not known in. The consumers grew and with its thrust on value added services, it kept the old customers intact. The deal helped both the brands grow potentially stronger.

Hutchinson’s ad- campaigns with the pug had won many hearts and were one of the simplest but most effectively communicated ads to have been seen in the recent past. Hutch had established a close and personal connection with its customers and it was closely attached to the brand name, astheir tag line-said,“Wherever you go, our network follows”, To wash the strong impression out and build up a new and improved image in the customers mind was going to be a challenge. The name they associated this image which had changed to Vodafone and this had to be communicated strongly. Ogilvy and Mather, the renowned ad agency which was responsible for the development of the previous ads, banked upon the already laid base of the pug and used him strategically to communicate the alteration. The transformation was portrayed in the ads very directly and a lot of stress was on the bright red speech mark, the characteristic of the Vodafone logo. It was followed with a tagline- “Hutch is now Vodafone”. They used the same formula, introduced the girl instead of the boy, used the animated stick cartoons of the girl and the boy and communicated this metamorphosis. The colors were brighter, the songs, faster. All of these were Vodafone’s attributes.

Vodafone’s winning services were the value additions they provided their customers. To inform their customers, they used straight forward commercials without the pug or the children.

Then came the Indian Premier League season where all the commercials got a touch up. They are rewired for the strong viewership the IPL commands. Ogilvy India invented the eerie, comical character called “Zoozoo” and introduced Vodafone’s Happy to Help plans and other value added services with them. In no time, they had grabbed attention of almost every viewer, every customer and were turning out to be an incredibly entertaining campaign. They were released at the rate of almost one ad every day since Vodafone did not want to lose the attentions of its growing customer base. Ogilvy India worked hard and formulated this game plan all by them and it has worked wonders!

For years to come and as long as the telecom industry binds its customers, the Hutch and Vodafone ads will not be forgotten. Vodafone’s marketing strategies will stand the test of time and their genius of branding will always promise to be efficient. As the Indian customer stays intrigued and keeps talking incessantly, the Zoozoos, the pugs, the little stick characters will continue to amuse all, and reassure the companies and creative heads that humor, vitality and everything else portrayed in a lighter vein will indeed always work!
Sakhi Deshpande

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