Sunday, December 20, 2009

The winds of change are blowing...

Things are about to change in the world of Canadian telecommunications, with consumers last week experiencing the first gust of wind from the newest wireless company to join the competitive landscape, Wind Mobile. But as the classic children's song says, "One of these things is not like the other", and Wind is positioning itself as the opposite of any wireless provider you've ever known. The anti-Rogers, Telus, and Bell, if you will. And in a category that continues down the path of commoditization - where consumers are making their decisions based on who has the latest and greatest phones, who offers them the best deal, and who has the biggest, er, network (or fastest, or most reliable, or...) - Wind is an example of the power of good branding.

Not to say that they're the only telco making a brand play. Virgin Mobile has always been strongly-branded, a company that's clear on what its brand stands for and the type of consumers who are proud to be a part of it. Virgin has always been somewhat of a rebel, the brand for those of us who aspire to be different, for those in touch with their inner Richard Branson. They entered the market with a strong value play but this past summer they showed their rebellious colours with the "F U Recession" Campaign. More recently, the "Fearless" work continues the rebel vibe but shifts to another part of the Virgin brand: young and sexy. You know if you're the type of person who should be with Virgin.

Koodo is the other well-branded telco. They too entered the market with a strong value play, but have also built a very unique brand along the way. Koodo is quirky - the brand has a funny name, the ads feature funny characters, weird colours, and made-up names, and more recently, disturbing music and sound effects. Like Virgin, the Koodo brand is polarizing - you either love it or you hate it. You know when you're a Koodo person. And I guess that's what sets the Wind Mobile brand apart from Virgin and Koodo: although all three are well-branded, the latter two appeal to a very specific consumer segment. Wind, on the other hand, is a brand for the masses.

Wind is the opposite of polarizing. It's harmonizing. It's about joining together, hand in hand, and challenging the evil empire in order to make change. It's the magician archetype, through and through, the Obama of telcos. This is a brand that truly is by the people, for the people, and against what people have been dealing with all these years.

Here is one of their initial ads, spelling out everything they're against:


But that's not all. In order to truly be a brand that's by the people, you need to listen to them. Before the telco had even decided on a brand name, they set up WirelessSoapbox.com, a forum - not unlike Dell's IdeaStorm - within which consumers could vent about what they don't like about current wireless providers and make suggestions on what they'd like to see in a new entrant. Right from the outset, Wind positioned itself as what may have once been considered unthinkable: a telco that listens to people. This led, quite fittingly, to the brand's mantra and tagline: "The Power of Conversation".


Finally, the launch. What better way to reinforce the fact that you listen to your consumers than by building a campaign around their ideas and suggestions? A soon as the CRTC cleared Globalive to launch Wind, the brand placed a full-page ad in the newspaper thanking those who'd joined the conversation and contributed suggestions. The ad called them out - from mopme101 to jordanb - for helping to shape Canada's newest wireless brand. Then came the revelation: those suggestions actually worked. People didn't like contracts, and so Wind doesn't have contracts. People didn't want to be limited by minutes, and so Wind has plans with unlimited minutes. People wanted simplicity in their plans, and Wind offers that in spades, with three main plans and no hidden fees.


As a final testament to those who helped build the brand that they hope will finally bring change to the wireless industry in Canada, Wind launched a 60-second cinema spot that recognizes consumers as the true architects of change, fittingly called "Monumental Change":



How will the new brand fare, and how will its opponents respond? Only time will tell...

2 comments:

  1. Very insightful post John, and an excellent example of crowdsourcing. I just had a look at WIND Mobile's website, it's great to see that they've continued with their engagement effort. Often, this is where many companies fall short - building on online community through some sort of campaign or initiative, but no formal plan to continue the dialogue with community members. The CEO even has a blog entry!

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  2. Thanks Eric.

    Looking back over this post and re-watching the ads, this campaign still gives me the chills (especially the anthemic "Monumental Change" spot). This truly is a brand that celebrated its tie to the people, whom it calls the "Architects of Change". Brilliant use of crowdsourcing to build both a brand and a business model.

    Unfortunately (though understandably), Wind's advertising has shifted somewhat over the last year, towards harder-selling ads that encourage consumers to switch providers by offering incentives. Let's hope that the brand never forgets its roots.

    What's next? Imagine a brand and business model that constantly evolves along with its consumers' needs. One that truly utilizes ongoing, dynamic crowdsourcing to respond to its users.

    It could happen...

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