Vodafone is hoping that social networks and a new app store can give it a much-needed facelift. The carrier is launching a major marketing offensive for the first time in four years, dropping its “Make the most of now” tagline in favor of “Power to you” and replacing Vodafone Live, its mobile data service, with Vodafone 360, an offering that will integrate offerings such as Facebook and Twitter along with a new app store slated to come online later this year.
Vodafone claims 315 million customers in 31 markets, but its image has accumulated dust as smaller, more nimble operators targeted young users with sexy handsets and services. The operator lost 18 percent of its “better value contract” customers in the last year alone, according to a piece in the Times Online, and is in danger of becoming only the third-largest carrier in the UK — its home market — once Orange and T-Mobile UK exchange vows.
The image overhaul is sure to attract attention due to Vodafone’s sheer size, if nothing else. The company spends $600 million in advertising annually and is looking for new, high-profile sports sponsorship opportunities. As Matthew Gwyther points out in ManagementToday.com, though, Vodafone is “faced with the familiar problem of making advertising travel and then earn its lunch across so many borders. Thus it winds up with slightly dismal lowest common denominator solutions.” So the carrier will also focus on the developer community by opening its platform and releasing APIs that will allow developers to build billing, location and other functions into their wares. Whether it can compete with the iPhone and Android in attracting attention from the new kingmakers in mobile, though, is far from clear. Even less certain is whether it can maintain its standing as an uber carrier in the new era of the mobile web.