Case study: Vodafone

Vodafone, the last British member of the big five mobile networks, has been named the most valuable British brand in 2010, as calculated by Brand Finance.

Vodafone has nudged past last year’s league leader HSBC. Its brand value has jumped from £17.03bn last year to £17.93bn this year. Brand Finance has calculated that the brand value contributes 16% of company’s total value.

While the brand has strong British roots, it is its performance in foreign markets that has weighted heavily on its brand value, according to Brand Finance chief executive David Haigh. “Vodafone has been growing strongly outside the UK, but it has a tough battle in its home market.”

In a market that is oversaturated and where players have had to come to terms with how to offer new services to customers, Vodafone saw its market leader position taken by O2 about two years ago. Whether the merger of T-Mobile and Orange disrupts the industry further remains to be seen.

To overcome the growing concern that mobile networks are becoming commoditised like the utilities sector, Vodafone is associating its brand with events such as London Fashion Weekend and F1 racing, as well as “money can’t buy” rewards for its customers. And these associations are being noticed. BrainJuicer’s emotional assessment indicates that consumers mention its sponsorship of the McLaren F1 team in a positive way.

However, the phone company’s massive cost- cutting venture announced at the turn of the recession will now spread to the company’s marketing operations, with job cuts of around 10%. The challenge will now be to retain high brand value on a much tighter budget.

Vodafone viewpoint:

Bart Michels, managing director for brand consultancy Added Value, one of Vodafone’s agencies

From an economic perspective, Vodafone has a ruthless, iconic way of treating its brand identity. The way it has pulled together all its visual representations from the high street through to communications and increasingly online is becoming very effective. In the mind of consumers, it creates an obvious marker to associate Vodafone with quality.

Some of the media strategy Vodafone applies, particularly around airports, makes it omnipresent, so that wherever British people travel they have this very reassuring visibility of Vodafone as an iconic brand.

Vodafone is fundamentally a UK business, and I think UK consumers understand that. Combined with its economic scale, people trust it because it gives a sense of being solid and reliable. And in tough economic times, where people want to deal with brands they trust, Vodafone gives that sense of reassurance. A lot of the communications it has been doing recently about being the most trusted and reliable network in terms of quality and coverage reinforces that message.

The mobile brand has a single-minded strategy to be the quality international mobile provider, which will be as true for the UK as anywhere else. I think this will increase the brand value in the future.

Loyalty is very important to the brand. The assets it has, such as Formula 1 and the work it is doing around London Fashion Weekend, are going to become even more present in how it attracts and holds on to customers because it’s a way of rewarding people. This is going to form part of a greater value proposition that Vodafone has been investing in.

To read the full cover story on the top British brands click here

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