Etisalat: branding unusual

“There are three kinds of companies: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen; and those who wonder what’s happened – Anonymous

When in 2008, the Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS) launched the Etisalat brand into the competitive Nigerian GSM telephony market, little did it know that it was indirectly acting the script once scripted and fore told by the Anonymous by being a pace setter company in making things happen.

As at that time, the Nigerian telecom market had been dominated by three major players who were all competing in a bloody Red Ocean with limited boundaries and defined rules. Indeed, the Etisalat initiative was almost perceived by the pessimists and cynics as more or less an after-thought when a market leader had been clearly identified.

However, the handlers of Etisalat surely knew their onions as they launched the brand into the market in a rather very unusual manner that caught competitors and critics unaware. The initial skepticism was not unconnected with the fears that as a fourth player, Etisalat might have to contend with the crumbs of the market as it was erroneously thought that premium subscribers would have been hooked on pioneer players.

Indeed, not underestimating the market leadership of pioneer players like MTN, Airtel and Glo, Etisalat entered the market with greater excitement through its groundbreaking 0809u choose campaign. For the very first time, mobile phone customers could choose numbers special to them to create their own phone numbers. This tradition of customer-focused innovation has remained the DNA of the brand. The unique campaign resonated so perfectly with the Nigerian audience such that the new telecom brand became an instant market sensation. Not only that, the brand’s chosen pay-off line was novel and unique in many ways. With the adoption of “Now You’re Talking” as a pay-off line, Etisalat went direct hitting the jugular of the third force, Glo which pay-off line was “We got you talking”.

Etisalat’s boldness and effrontery in adopting this pay-off clearly indicated from the earlier days that the brand was out to redefine the frontier while expanding into the Blue Oceans to create a new telephony experience. Similarly, the adoption of the pay-off also sets the brand apart as battle ready for a competitive encounter with hitherto early arrivals. This could be seen in the initial controversy which the pay-off line adoption ignited. After all said and done, the whole exercise turned out fine for Etisalat which was able to manage the fall-out of the adoption without ruffling the feathers of market leaders. It was an initiative that immediately got Nigerian telephone subscribers to start thinking while paying serious attention to the brand.

Also at the launch, Etisalat signed up hip hop sensation with great influence on the youth segment of the population, Banky W who was on the geometric rise in his music career and was hired by the brand for its famous 0809ja sound track. This popular song remains the sign off and signature tune for all the brand’s radio and Television commercials.

This innovation perfectly resonates with the rave of the moment amongst the youth segments who would like to use the word naija as a short form for the country’s name Nigeria. It was like a collocation made in Heaven and wedded between Etisalat and the Nigerian youths population.

But within a couple of years after it rolled out, Etisalat has dumbfounded the nay-sayers with market penetration strategy that has redefined the telecom sector. It carefully identified the youth segment and took ownership of it using data as a bait. A number of innovative youth-centric products like EasyStarter, EasyLife, EasyCliq etcetera were rolled-out and they came with voice and free data.

Fortunately, this development coincided with a period when there was an incredible pent-up demand for data service. There was a growing awareness of the internet and the various social media platforms like facebook, Twitter, YouTube were becoming popular in Nigeria, especially in the youth market. So there was a big demand for a more affordable and efficient data and Etisalat quickly filled that gap.

Etisalat was actually the first to enter the market with 3.75G HSPA. “So at that point really we took the leadership in terms of performance which has carried on, “Matthew Willsher, CEO of Etisalat Nigeria told Win Win, a publication by Huawei. And with the recent launch of 4G LTE, the network has further deepened its leadership in the data market.

But Etisalat did not just profess the youth segment as its core space, it lived it. In the company, most of the senior management positions, especially the customer-facing sides of the business are populated by young people. This made room for the brand to look as young as it wanted and enabled bonding with the market.

Even though data now makes up a substantial percentage of Etisalat’s revenue, it is however not the only winning strategy for the Telco brand. The company has also invested massively in other areas especially in the quality of network. “We have a great reputation for data and we have the best customer satisfaction, the best net-promoter score in Nigeria, and what’s interesting to me is that we’re moving from just being seen as having the best data network to having the best network overall”, Willsher said.

Continuing, he said, “For instance, the other operators were banned for a time and fined because of their network quality, whereas Etisalat was seen as delivering overall quality, particularly around voice, that met the required standards of the regulators, so I’m very proud of the team and their achievements in that area.”

So as far back as 2009, Etisalat was rated top by NCC as far as network quality was concerned. Etisalat Nigeria came 1st in 4 out of the 5 key Quality of Service performance indicators and narrowly missed being number one in only one indicator.

In QoS indicators like TCH Congestion (Without Handover Rate), TCH Congestion (With Handover Rate), Call Setup Success Rate and SDCCH Congestion Rate, Etisalat Nigeria was adjudged the best service provider for the month of March by an appreciably wide margin. It came a close second by a slim margin in terms of the indicator known as the Drop Call Rate.

Etisalat has continued on that path even until now as validated by a report released in 2014. The report which was released in Abuja stated that in terms of Quality of Service Etisalat recorded the highest call set up rate of 98.09 percent. The call set up rate measures the ease with which calls are established or set up. A higher value implies that over 98% of attempted calls on the Etisalat network are successful.

And for its innovativeness, the Telco has been handsomely rewarded with a bountiful harvest of subscribers. As at March 2016, there were close to 22million subscribers on the network. In fact, the porting exercise that took place in the industry recently was more to the advantage of Etisalat than any other players in the market.

Brief about EMTS
Established in the United Arab Emirates in 1976, with footprints in 19 countries across the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Etisalat continues to pioneer innovative technologies in emerging markets and reach millions globally. Trading as Etisalat Nigeria, emerging markets telecommunication services (EMTS) is a private Nigerian company in partnership with Mubadala Development Company and Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates. It acquired the unified access license from the federal government in January 2007, which includes a mobile licence and spectrum in the GSM 1800 and 900 MHZ bands. Etisalat acquired a 40% stake in EMTS and is now the operator of the unified access license.


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