Econet Wireless launched 20 years ago as the alternative mobile network with a compelling story. Their story involved perseverance and determination outlasting unfair government denial to issue a license. Not long after that they introduced Buddie, their prepaid service plan that defined how virtually all Zimbabweans consume telephony services.
Buddie was also a cool and fresh brand that had majority equity in the youth demographic. Over time though the company grew older and bigger and as it did it alienated younger people. This is only natural because young people are not big spenders hence most initial growth as Zimbabwe adopted mobile telephony was in the older generation.
Telecel came with the hip
At the dawn of 2012, Telecel rebranded and introduced a new fresh clean logo in a bold red colour. They re-positioned themselves in a more youthful light and had accompanying ad campaigns to go with it. Beyond the market gimmicks, Telecel became the true alternative and challenger.
Their line, “Tell someone,” was simple and catchy. The bigger deal though was that there really was something to tell someone about. Generally Telecel was the network that offered the most value for the amount of money in one’s hand. Young folks flock to where stuff is affordable and of course they flocked to Telecel.
This is not to say that Telecel captured the bigger market share in the youth demographic but they indeed captured solid mindshare there. At that time Buddie was not really understandable as a brand. There was confusion about the difference between Buddie and the earlier launched Libertie which was initially meant to be a cross between prepaid billing and post paid billing offering. Of course Libertie had died out at this point but Buddie was now just present in name only.
NetOne’s Onefusion became ‘it’
Mid 2016, NetOne launched OneFusion. This is probably one of the most popular bundles ever. The internet had already entrenched itself as the new and growing medium of communication in Zimbabwe. Most of the internet was only just WhatsApp even at this point. OneFusion played to this new reality and made an impact.
Until OneFusion the mental image conjured by the NetOne brand was older folks who only used their mobile phones to call. This is not to say NetOne only had older folks but that the brand image did not really appeal to young gals and guys.
OneFusion changed all that. The brand name itself is clever and the number one attractive thing to youths: value for money was oozing out of the offer. More of the youth mindshare was captured away from Econet. It could have been worse for Econet had it not been that Telecel was killing itself with endless boardroom squabbles.
As is becoming custom, Econet looked North East
Econet looked to the same guys who inspired Ecocash which is arguably one of the most successful products to be launched in Zimbabwe. They went to Kenya and saw what Safaricom was doing. Safaricom had a standalone brand dedicated to youths: Blaze.
Blaze is almost like an MVNO (virtual network). Besides that they do empowerment seminars for young people aged 10 to 26. They have a suite of products and services targeted at this age group which are generally more affordable. This is what Econet came back to implement and call Elevate.
Not quite like Blaze
Elevate up to now was not quite like Blaze in that it still sounded like its parent. This is different with Blaze, you don’t see a lot of Safaricom fingerprints there. With Elevate, one would get the feeling that the Econet executives were not too comfortable in giving the brand room to fly and have its own identity.
This affected the development of Elevate a bit. The brand sounded more like an empowerment thing and not much else. This is not a bad thing in isolation except that the real point to Elevate was market segmentation. It’s meant to be a sub culture and not just something you take from. Within this sub culture, Econet is expecting to equip its next high value customer.
With Yo Mix, things could be changing
With the introduction of Yo Mix Bundles which are completely exclusive to registered Elevate young folks (16 to 35 year olds) Elevate is becoming more similar to Blaze. Econet is now attempting to bounce back in the youthful demographic mindshare and they have a value proposition to boot. Let’s see how much they will succeed….