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Vodacom making huge progress towards losing the war with Cell C

Although Vodacom has won the battle at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), I think that it will lose the war. It’s fascinating how often the management of organisations get involved in their little skirmishes and lose total sight of the big picture.

Although it seems to me that Cell C has in the past pushed its advertising and claims too far and has, by doing so, lost credibility, the reality in this case is that the Cell C offering is the superior experience. I have been using a Cell C stick given to me by Lars Reichelt for some months and although I have been vocal where it fails in less than perfect coverage, where it is properly set up it flies and performs just as Cell C claims.

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Although Lars Reichelt maintains that his campaign is not cheeky I disagree. I think it’s opportunistic and takes advantage of the massive and, in my mind, extremely extravagant spend of the Vodacom rebrand with humour and is certainly cheeky. I am sure that you remember the Nando’s campaign doing exactly the same to Cell C.

To its credit the Cell C marketing team took it in exactly the right spirit, and sent each of the key Nando’s players a speed stick.

I am not going to spend much effort on the ASA but they certainly seem to have “boobed” on this one by not properly considering the technical evidence.. But having said that isn’t the ASA a remnant of a soon to disappear, legacy marketing environment — an environment dominated by consumers fed information over broadcast media and not empowered as they are now by the power of connections in the always-on world? Cell C learned, to its detriment, the power of this world to voice its opinion when it astroturfed the Trevor Noah thing.

Is it possible that Cell C has struck a nerve in the Vodacom command complex? Is it just possible that Vodacom know that CellC has a superior offering and Vodacom are in the process of trying to muddy the waters hoping that it can stall the move of the data customer to a product it can’t match? Why else run to the ASA?

My advice to the new marketer is to understand that the war is not won in the cobwebbed council chambers of the ASA. It’s won by the customer’s experience.

The way to win this war is with delivery — simply give the customer a superior experience and they will tell their friends. People trust their friends more than they do advertising and PR spin and in this real time world where thoughts travel around the globe in a wink, the word will spread.

Vodacom are busy turning Cell C into the underdog, and themselves into the playground bully a little too big for his boots. Steve Jobs managed to build Apple into the colossal success it is by casting Microsoft as the enemy. Perhaps this is exactly what Lars Reichelt has managed to do to Vodacom and it’s possible that, like Jobs turned Microsoft into a challenger and Apple the champion, that a similar thing is happening here.

My advice to Vodacom – get your act together – the consumer doesn’t care what the ASA says. They care about what you do.

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