The phoenix is believed to be a mythical bird from Ethiopia, according to Greek historian Herodotus (b: 484 BC). It is a spectacularly large and beautiful bird adorned with mind-blowing plumage. The phoenix makes its nest out of cypress branches not in preparation to lay eggs, but to die. While sitting in the nest, the bird creates a great deal of heat and set itself on fire from the heat. After three days, the phoenix reemerges from its own ashes – reborn, renewed and released for a new cycle of life.
Greek poet Hesiod (b: 700 BC) while corroborating this assertion, revealed that the phoenix could outlive nine generations of ravens. That’s about 90,000 years in Hesiod’s time.
Today, the phoenix is not any more the ancient Ethiopian bird; phoenixes are brands and organisations that have evolved into the character of the phoenix – brands that exhibit resilience, agility and strength of character and huge survival instinct in the midst of challenges. Of course, many brands and businesses transform, rebrand or try to reinvent for reasons ranging from the need to bolster efficiency or to improve on customer satisfaction or service delivery. Some do so just because it feels good to ‘dress fancy’. These are not phoenix brands.
Worthy of note however is the fact that when brands successfully reinvent, consumers are excited. For instance, when Pepsi rebranded its PET bottle into the now popular Long Throat Bottle with the campaign theme, ‘ThingsILongThroatFor’, the market was agog with excitement. LaCasera also repackaged and reintroduced its leading apple drink into the CSD market with its ‘Fresh New Look’ campaign. It also excited the consumers.
The Nigeria’s telecommunications sector has also witnessed the marketing communication practice of brand transformation or rebranding. Notable example is Econet Nigeria which went through series of transformation over a period of time. From its initial market entry brand name Econet, the telco changed to Vodacom, then rebranded to V-Mobile, but yet again reengineered into Celtel, reinvented into Zain and today it is called Airtel. The brand is relatively in a better position now compared to when it first launched into the Nigerian market.
Rebranding is not a death sentence as erroneously perceived; rather it’s an opportunity to experience rebirth and growth. A great reason to rebrand can also be self-preservation. We could talk about the lifespan of a brand being extended through product lifecycle strategies but the phoenix encapsulates the real essence of rebranding which reverberates the following: life, resurrection, reemergence, renewal, creativity, protection, rebirth, time, longevity, magic, immortality and transformation.
Nigeria’s fourth largest telecommunication network, 9mobile, which formerly traded as Etisalat Nigeria, shares the phoenix traits as it recently did what many perceived to be impossible – the company unveiled a new name and logo in less than three weeks. One of its former major shareholders, the Etisalat Group of UAE had given the company three weeks to discontinue the use of the Etisalat brand name after it exited the company. It took the magical phoenix three days to rebirth from its ashes as the world witnessed the birth of 9mobile at a formal brand unveil on July 19, 2017. The symbolic headline rebranding was talk of town across the social media platforms, newspapers, radio and television.
The loads of reports in the local and international media channels are a testament of the brand’s popularity and acceptability that the fourth mobile operator enjoy across the market segments and across borders. Never has there been this much coverage of any product that rebrands.
Speaking at the well attended media unveil of the rebranded telco in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer, 9mobile, Boye Olusanya, said the new brand identity reflects the bold and creative attributes which the organisation shares with its valued subscribers. He stated that the choice of the new name and logo is a deliberate representation and confirmation of 9mobile’s Nigerian heritage, 9ja-centricity, and another phase of its evolution over 9 years of operations in Nigeria. He added that though its name and brand changes, the telco will continue to deliver excellent services to its customers and remain true to the values it has operated with since day one when the network launched into Nigeria in 2008.
“In our 9 years of operations, we have remained at the forefront of innovation and take pride in consistently delivering superior experiences to our subscribers. We continue to establish meaningful partnerships with our customers and partners by providing platforms that support their goals and aspirations,” Olusanya said.
He added that the new logo represents resilience and continuity, and also expresses the brand’s thoughts about the future, particularly of digital technology and its continued impact on communication and human interactions. Being a number-themed logo, it reflects the network’s futuristic slant. The colour green, both its light and dark variants, reflects vibrancy, dynamism, life, and youth as well as the brand’s ‘Nigerianness’.
9mobile’s rebranding continues to generate more talkability, it is also evoking fresh hope for the national economy the same way the phoenix turns-around flames and ashes into becoming a glorious bird once again. Pointer to this is the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) latest monthly porting report which revealed that more telecom users from other networks migrated to 9mobile at the end of May 2017. The NCC’s “Incoming and Outgoing Porting Activities of Mobile Network Operators Report”, showed that out of the total 39,535 porting activities in May, 19,816 were “Incoming Porting Activities”, while 19,719 were “Outgoing Porting Activities”. 9mobile recorded the highest incoming porting activity (users leaving other networks to 9mobile) with a massive 15,253 telecom users leaving MTN, Globacom and Airtel for the rebranded telecom company. Airtel had the second highest incoming porting activity with 2,597 subscriber migrations. MTN was third on the incoming porting migration chart with 1,245 telecom users while Globacom had the least incoming migration figures on the table. 9mobile also excelled on the outgoing porting migration table (users leaving 9Mobile to other networks) with only 1,826 subscribers of 9mobile leaving to other networks, this is recorded as the lowest outgoing result. Globacom outgoing porting activity was recorded as 4,786, this is the second lowest outgoing migration on the table.
In this reinvention, the success of the rebranding of 9mobile with a reputation as Nigeria’s most innovative, customer and youth friendly telecommunications company will go a long way to strengthen the brand’s reputation of true reflection of ‘can do spirit’ of Nigerians. This also reinforces the telco’s popular market entry affirmation, ‘Naija for Life’ and 0809ja Nigerian-centricity which it further reinforced at the unveil with ‘Here for you, here for Naija’.
Industry experts commend 9mobile for living to its promise of being a Nigerian brand with global appeal. This is because in it’s 9 years of operation, the brand has remained a prime driver and avid supporter of the Nigerian spirit of excellence. Its initiatives in supporting key aspects of Nigerian society have seen it build friendship across businesses and communities.
The evolving youth segment of Nigeria’s population and their appetite for data consumption and life on-the-go, is one of the pointers experts are quick to cite as a great future for the telecom operators to cash in. 9mobile also has several innovative products, services and solutions that meet the needs of specific market segments. There are also engagement platforms through which the brand has endeared itself to the market with reward and appreciation benefits to loyal customers.
Even before, during after the new brand unveil; it continues to launch innovative value-added services such as KwikCash, Blaze On and coverage of more cities by 4G LTE services amongst others.