Vodafone new German brand campaign

Nobody really likes their telco provider. Everybody can tell a story of a contract which could not be cancelled, about intransparent tariffs, crazy roaming prices (send one mail, pay 5 EUR) and unsatisfying service hotlines. So telecommunication is not a sexy product and what is the telco’s approach to that problem? Change their products? No, it’s massive investment in marketing. Which is why e.g. Peter tells us why telcos are doomed.

Now, Vodafone Germany puts 200 mio. 50-90 mio (!) EUR in a big marketing campaign. And makes it even worse by especially targetting a group of people who feel the need to be online a lot, call them “generation upload” and starting all sorts of social media channels (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and so on). While the term itself might be questionable, the targetting itself is quite smart in my opinion: it is an interesting, important and targettable group. What is missing here in the branding strategy is the consumer insight!

These people who use telecommunication more than others know exactly about the lack of good contracts, good service and fair treatment by their telco provider. They are the ones who are able to tell all the stories I started this blogpost with. Targetting them with advertising without changing the behaviour is exactly the way of one-way marketing and placebo dialogue that should be over since the days of the Cluetrain manifesto.

Vodafone picked the advertising company Scholz & Friends especially for their ideas on social media. But Scholz is an advertising company. They are not business consultants. And social media won’t change that. They talk to marketing directors about ads, not about products. They might talk about products over coffee, but they will never change a company’s behaviour. Claiming to do so, claiming to listen, claiming to put the customer first and then not living up to the expectations is worse than not even rise all sorts of expectations at all.

Of course this is not my sole opinion. The German blogosphere is filled with harsh, taunting, zynical and serious critique. No one of the targeted “generation upload” is impressed by the campaign which was presented this week in a press conference streamed live to the web. Johannes writes in a very short and precise post how a real change could have looked like.

Unlike many commenters I am not talking about sell-out of the blogosphere because some bloggers and prominent twitter users are testimonials of the campaign. That’s not the core of the problem. On the contrary: I hope, they get paid a LOT for being in that campaign. Sascha Lobo, one of the main faces should receive around 100K EUR in my estimation, everything less would be dissapointing.

Moreover, the clip itself is crap! It’s an ad which we have seen in around 100 variations for 100 products in the last 20 years: young, happy, enganged, curious, active people doing young, engaged, active stuff. Wohoo! And the David Bowie interpretation is hideous and hurts! Just to remind you that Vodafone can do better, here is the “Bohemian like you” spot again.

Update:Nevertheless, it’s a very visible campaign and all the buzz that has been created is obviously free brand space. Plus: If you work in internet marketing and like to create social media tools for companies yourself, this is a brilliant example to point to. May it be for the use of social media channels in general or the overall message I hope I made clear in this post: Social media can be about listening and in the end changing behaviour. I am curious how this works out for Vodafone.