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Virgin Mobile India: Building a youth brand in a youthful country
Dheeraj Sinha Warc Prize for Asian Strategy Shortlisted, 2011
this paper claims. quality of strategic thinking (40%). Newspapers (national). This led to a campaign which celebrated the rule-breaking nature of Indian youth via cheeky TV and radio spots. By positioning itself as a partner in crime with Indian youth. Social media. Online video. As evidence of the success of its approach. The cases had to show what the problem was. and other social media and outdoor executions. as well as a high level of Downloaded from warc. Title: Author(s): Source: Issue: Virgin Mobile India: Building a youth brand in a youthful country Dheeraj Sinha Warc Prize for Asian Strategy Shortlisted.May 2010 Country: India Media budget (USD): 5 . India’s twenty-somethings were being squeezed out. For more information on this annual prize. Radio (national). Television (broadcast) EXECUTIVE SUMMARY India has one of the youngest populations in the world with a median age of 24 years. performance against objectives (20%). The fact that there wasn’t a mainstream youth brand in one of the youngest countries of the world was seen as an opportunity by the brand.warc. The Prize was judged by a panel of senior clients and agency-side strategy experts. the telecommunications operator. But if you are an Indian youth. realized that with much discussion of ‘40 as the new 20’. you have nowhere to go.com/asiaprize. how that strategy was brought to life and the results it delivered.10 million Channels used: Internet microsites. the strategy that was developed. lessons learned (10%). 2011 Virgin Mobile India: Building a youth brand in a youthful country The Warc Prize for Asian Strategy is Asia’s first competition set up to reward brilliant strategic thinking in marketing. this case study cites results such as the above market growth in Virgin Mobile’s new subscriber growth and average revenue per user. Out of home (all forms).com 2 . using the following weighting: quality of insight (15%). Newspapers (local). India is a market of ‘middle-aged teenagers’. please visit www. implementation (15%). Virgin Mobile gave Indian youth a brand they could call their own. Virgin Mobile. Campaign Details Advertiser: Virgin Mobile India Limited Agency: Bates 141 Brand: Virgin Mobile India Limited Campaign duration: March 2008 . Marketers and agencies across Asia (excluding Pacific) were asked to submit case studies that demonstrated how insight and strategy had solved a business problem.
A look around the category made it clear that the existing players in the market namely Vodafone (then Hutch). In 1991 India started on the path of economic liberalization and de-regulation. Virgin Mobile entered India with a brief to become the telecoms brand for youth. more in imagery. Well not exactly if you realize that in today’s India everyone and everything is young. And at the same time consistently deliver on the brand promise year on year. MARKET BACKGROUND AND BUSINESS OBJECTIVES Building a youth brand in a country with 200 million people in the age band of 15 – 24 years should be an easy task. Idea and others weren’t any less youthful. The depiction of youth was less in motivation. 100 % increase in new subscriptions in 2010 BRAND Downloaded from warc. The category spent some $386m in 2008 which went up by 15% in 2009 (source: This Year Next Year report by GroupM). It just so happens that the largest consuming class affected by this change is in the ageband of 25-45 yrs. It had been an economy closed within itself. and a society held back by scarcity suddenly opened up to the pangs of desire. Moreover there appeared to be a standard formula to make the brand look young – make a group of youngsters jump in the sky and throw in a basketball or a guitar. To connect Virgin mobile to the youth of India rather than Indian ‘youthfulness’ Share of voice had become the formula to get share of mind –telecoms brands were held together more by a desire to have high visibility rather than some deeper motivation. This was the real opportunity for Virgin Mobile in India – to give the Indian youth a brand that they can call their own. All telecom brands were trying to be everything for everybody. the weight of its brand idea had to be. Media weight was not going to be in favour of Virgin mobile. Airtel. Brands and marketers in India have found it easier to fuel the consumption glee of these 45 year olds. THE CHALLENGE The challenge therefore was twofold. turning India into a market of ‘middle-aged teenagers’. Reliance. New subscribers from the target segment (15-24 years) at a rate higher than the industry average over 2008-2009 2. acquisition of subscribers among its target youth audience. to achieve an ARPU (average revenue per user) of 15-20% higher than the industry average in 2008-2009 3.com 3 . High value youth subscribers as they are heavy users of value added services and SMS. We had to create a pure and differentiated brand for youth in the sea of young looking brands. Objectives: ACQUIRE 1.
They have taken several status quo beliefs head on and have shattered them. Whether it’s about a blatant craving for fame and money as against the traditional Indian belief that money corrupts. to having multiple relationships simultaneously or jumping jobs in six months. But there was a social discomfort in facing it. Does things differently and is innovative c. it’s unafraid of bringing out what’s been brushed under the carpet by others. They do not need empowerment or liberation of any kind. Dominate youth conversation in the online space INSIGHT AND STRATEGIC THINKING The Indian Youth is Retrieving Self Space Research. 1. In many ways they are like the protagonist in the Bollywood blockbuster. Evidently. The locus around which good or bad was measured has moved from outside (society) to inside (me). A unique ‘Virgin way’ of advertising 4. For this generation therefore. Who Else but a Brand Like Virgin? It’s not that this new way of youth’s life was hidden from anybody in the society.a shocking revelation to his father who has spent more than twenty years in the same job. In the defined social and category context it looked like it was the destiny of Virgin Mobile as a brand to bring legitimacy to the new ways of youth life. Achieve a total brand awareness of at least 30% in the first 9 months of the launch 3. The need for this generation is a certain legitimization of their way of life. They are challenging many of the old tenets of the traditional Indian way of life. Virgin Mobile Exhorts Indian Youth to ‘Bypass the Firewall of Sanctions’ Downloaded from warc. But as a generation they are critically aware that they cannot achieve desires through linear ways. small shortcuts are OK. this is not a generation which wants its persona to be whitewashed in ‘goodness’.com 4 . This is a generation whose expectations and desires from life are discontinuous. Bunty Aur Babli. or edgier things like ‘living-in’ before marriage. popular culture mapping and conversations with observers of change revealed that the youth in today’s India have cracked a unique route between tradition and modernity. Establish differentiation on parameters a. A brand for the youth b. his argument being that the job in question has neither respect. Virgin is a courageous brand. As a generation therefore. a little bit of bad is actually good for them. nor fame or fun . But they are unique and clever in the way that they are doing so without any rebellion or without upsetting the apple cart. some manipulation and a little bit of meanness is almost essential. In the film. Create high awareness for Virgin Mobile as a brand 2. Bunty clearly refuses to go for the interview for a railway clerk position.
The Indian Panga League was a series of 105 films which captured the spirit of sledging amongst cricket fans supporting different states over cheap inter-state calls. only to manipulate them into letting her go to Goa with her boyfriend. We decided to shift the battleground from the television screen to the computer screen because that’s where our audience was. The brand continued its tonality with the Indian Panga League. which all went into making the ‘pangas’ rip-roaring hilarious. current events and cultural nuances. For the first time on national television. to find new ways around old things. but Virgin Mobile had only 1% of the budget of its leading competitors to build momentum for its new offering. histrionics on and off the field. IMPLEMENTATION Creative Strategy Telling Stories that Upset Social Codes Our campaign creative told stories that were purposefully designed to bring out some of the grey areas in the public space. which seemed to have become the surrogate for India’s conscience. it was futile to enter the big boys’ league on a limited budget. each story/ ‘panga’ captured the spirit of sledging as realistically as possible – not only in content but also execution style and casting.com 5 . Virgin exhorts Indian youth to be inventive in their ways. The first brand film showed a young girl pretending to have lesbian tendencies in front of her parents. compared to our IPL budget of less than $0. Any effort would be missed in the blink of an eye with the big beasts of telecoms splurging nothing less than $11m (Vodafone). Giving the campaign a bolder and Downloaded from warc. While year one and two (2008 & 2009) were largely dominated by brand and product campaigns. Staying true to its stance of being a real youth brand. Thus was born the idea of the Indian Panga2 League. idiosyncrasies. Virgin Mobile will be their partner in crime. year three (2010) saw the brand making a big dent in the digital space. there were storylines and characters which were not whitewashed in goodness.2m. A commentary on how it’s our senior generation that is pervert as against their constant bickering about the liberal ways of today’s youth. The third film is about a typical Indian government clerk falling for a faux sex hotline. With 80 brands in the advertising melee and a 200% premium on spot rates. Virgin Mobile recognizes that today’s discontinuous desires need discontinuous ways to achieve them. the IPL was being telecast live on YouTube. The ‘pangas’ took-off on player performances. and will exhort them to: Bypass The Firewall Of Sanctions Virgin Mobile as a brand in India has exhorted the youth to bypass sanctions over the last three years of its campaign. names. The second story is about how a young guy manages to bypass the hard-nosed traffic cop (in the Indian context often corrupt and seeking bribes) by making him talk to his father on the mobile phone. which took the brand philosophy forward. In the same way as Virgin Mobile is challenging the category and its ‘done’ ways to unlock value for the youth. In 2010 Virgin was launching its GSM service around the time of IPL1 season 3 – India’s largest television event. And for the first time. The father is no other than a friend of our protagonist.
provocative tinge were the liberally sprinkled expletives in response to the opposition’s jibes (which were obviously beeped out). Other assets included: l Facebook: IPL fan page linked back to the IPL site Seeding of the TVCs on the teams’ fan pages and linking it to the IPL site Twitter: Live broadcast of the match updates followed by Pangas l l Downloaded from warc. Media Strategy To connect with youth at a limited budget we decided to target the media that they would have most affinity with. This built momentum and gave the entire campaign an extremely ‘live’ feel. We initiated a massive social media strategy to further participation and encourage visits to the site and our YouTube channel.com 6 . posted films on youth news sites and targeted email databases. With a 6% share of expenditure. We used video banners. Allocation to digital was twice that of the category average and outdoor’s share of budget was 18% compared to category average of 30%. leveraging the most recent exploits and performances. We had to target and leverage viral behaviour to generate momentum and hype for it to turn into a larger than life property. To retain interest levels we actually scripted stories as the IPL was being played out. While TV and radio was used. only shows on channels that they could connect with were chosen. the brand managed to capture a 10% share of voice amongst the youth. For the IPL campaign we knew the medium to reach the youth with minimal cost and break the clutter was stand-alone digital.
30% above the industry average of Rs. attracting bulk of its subscribers from the intended target group. From an average of 3500 a day. PERFORMANCE AGAINST OBJECTIVES ACQUISITION Virgin Mobile outperformed the industry not just in its rate of growth but also ARPU (average revenue per user).com 7 . 2. 80% of the total numbers of subscribers of Virgin Mobile are from the desired target segment of 18 – 25 years. TRAI Report July – September ‘08 5. the proportion of STD minutes doubled from 15% to 30%. The rate of acquisition jumped 30% after the Get Paid For Receiving Calls (Mahalingam) campaign and by 23% after the STD (Train) campaign went on air. November ‘09.way ahead of the industry average of 15% Downloaded from warc. In 2010. 1. Ltd.19% in the quarter ending June 2009. 4. 3. we surpassed our target of 100% and registered a 129% increase in new subscriptions one month into the new service launch. Source: Virgin Mobile India Pvt. Averaged a 20% quarterly rate of growth in new subscribers against the industry growth rate of 4. In 2010.120. we more than doubled to 8000 a day in May 2010.92 for the quarter ending June 2009. Achieved an ARPU (average revenue per user) of Rs.
Achieved a total awareness of 91% in the year of launch. August – October ‘08 2. 5.456 views. Scored high on uniqueness as 86% felt Virgin Mobile advertising was ‘uniquely different as compared to other telecom ads seen’ Source: AC Nielsen. Brand Health Evaluation.039. Higher views on YouTube for Virgin Mobile advertising compared to competitor’s ads on air during the same period.com 8 . Source: Virgin Mobile India Pvt.835 visits from April 1st 2008 to June 30th 2009 with 78% of them being new visits Downloaded from warc. Just the nurse film got 196. The Virgin Mobile website recorded 4. BRAND 1. Virgin Mobile scored higher than all competitive brands on imagery parameters of being ‘innovative’ and ‘trendsetting’ consistently through 2008-2010 4. August – October ‘08 3. Ltd. Brand Health Evaluation. significantly above the objective of 30% in the first 9 months of launch Source: AC Nielsen.
Source: Virgin Mobile. compared to Foster’s 500 odd fans after a one month activity.000+ referrals and forwards to friends by visitors ¡ ¡ Facebook: Fastest registration across industries!! 2. Virgin Mobile dominated youth conversation online in 2010 ¡ Our website www.com l l l l l 9 .000 views YouTube: 1. November ‘09 6.35 Million views in just 50 days! +300 times more cost efficient (per view) vs.590 fans in just 22 days.in: 1.000+ Twitter users in just 29 days.indianpangaleague. Twitter: exposure to 60.5 Million+ unique views in over a month Fans posting their own pangas which we actually developed into films 43. Aircel Other Milestones for the Brand l Silver EFFIE 2008 Bronze at JAY CHIAT 2009 AME 2009 for Best Insight and Strategic Thinking Bronze EFFIE 2009 Gold and Silver EFFIE 2010 Yahoo Big Idea Chair India Downloaded from warc. Google Analytics. l Fans re-tweeting pangas Creating their own IPL hash tags Sending requests for not only more pangas but also the uncensored ones! l l Biggest fan ever! An individual fan uploaded all the 105 films on a separate channel on YouTube which garnered 3.90.
e-mailed.warc.com All rights reserved including database rights. Talking up versus talking down: Marketers and advertisers are always happy building brands that promise ‘empowerment’ or ‘liberation’. Youth is not a species. We had to be young in motivation. All that they needed was a certain legitimatization of their way of life. They needed a brand to be their partner in crime and not sit on a pedestal. Footnotes INSIGHTS AND STRATEGIC THINKING 1 IPL is the Indian Premier League –A hugely popular yearly cricket match series between different state teams on the lines of the English Premier League 2 Panga is a Hindi word for taking potshots at someone © Copyright Warc 2011 Warc Ltd. They are normal people. We often tend to stereotype youth as those guys with tattoos and piercings all over their bodies and gel in their hair. United Kingdom. just a new generation. 3. We realized that the youth of today’s India needed neither of these. London. In real life. l Bronze at Spikes Asia 2010 – ‘Best Use of Digital Media. dealing with its own set of issues. Including Social Media category’ Shortlist at the Digital Media Awards 2010 Potential entry for a Guinness Record for the maximum number of commercials by a single brand advertiser within a span of 45 days l l LESSONS LEARNED 1. Fax: +(0)20 7467 8101 www. W1T 3EX Tel: +44 (0)20 7467 8100. It may not be reproduced. youth is just another generation. It is cool because of the things it does.com 10 . 2. 4. The locus of morality in India was changing. Building a young looking brand is different from building a brand for the youth. Downloaded from warc. posted on intranets. as they were the ‘silverspoon’ generation. not imagery. extranets or the internet. Being brave: Youth brands need to have the courage to bring out what’s swept under the carpet. archived or shared electronically either within the purchaser’s organisation or externally without express written permission from Warc. Virgin had to be brave to put it on the national television. A real youth brand is not desperate to ‘look cool’. This electronic file is for the personal use of authorised users based at the subscribing company's office location. 85 Newman Street.