9 years and the 9 factors to indicate 9Mobile may fly high with its new identity

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Getting superstitious is not part of the game but it cannot escape notice that Etisalat was on its 9th year in Nigeria when it became 9Mobile. And I am just about making it a season of 9s by advancing the below 9 reasons why I am convinced this brand will ride high on its new name

It is a few days since the formal change of brand identity of Nigeria’s mobile operator, Etisalat that has now become 9Mobile.

Before the formal announcement, it was days of rumours and leaks; Rumours that a certain Nigerian billionaire was behind the new brand and restructuring of the N377 billion debt that led to the exit of its former partners, Etisalat UAE, which took away its equity and even the name and leaks that eventually robbed the brand of the moment of surprise in effectively controlling the reveal of its future look and feel; rumours that a number of global telcos were already bidding to take over majority stakes in the business

The brand lost control when its new name leaked ahead of official reveal. The logo was to follow almost as quickly. I understand the formal unveil of the brand identity had to be hurriedly put together in quite a modest show. The public was already in the know and there was therefore no need for any highfalutin brand reveal. It also therefore also made cost sense in the circumstances the brand has found itself.

Olusanya the turnaround artist is back to familiar terrain

Olusanya the turnaround artist is back to familiar terrain

But what this may suggest is the high interest of the Nigerian public on the brand. Practically every journalist was interested in the stories around the now former Etisalat. IT Editors, Marketing Writers, Crime and Judiciary reporters and even political editors were running after stories around the brand. It was even an Energy Editor that was credited with breaking the story on the new name the brand had adopted.

Before the often unreliable court of public opinion, there have been various judgments passed. While some are certain the new name was not such a great one, there are those who insist the brand could never have adopted another name. Some argue based on the attachment they think the market has had on the Etisalat brand. This strong equity, they claim may hamper 9Mobile.

At the brand reveal, CEO of the brand, Boye Olusanya, had said “With the launch of our new brand, our commitment to providing our subscribers with best-in-class telecommunications services continues,” because “the vivacity of our new brand is an affirmation of our creativity and the recent launch of a volley of value adding services, such as our BlazeOn and Kwikcash service, is testament to this.”

Boye would not rule out the possibility of future name changes if and when new investors come in. Most people are sure discussions are going on with many people already where the numbers are being interrogated to ensure painless entry if and when an agreement is reached.

For me, getting superstitious is not part of the game but it cannot escape noticing that Etisalat was on its 9th year in Nigeria when it became 9Mobile. And I am just about making it a season of 9s by advancing the below 9 reasons why I am convinced this brand will ride high on its new name.

  1. The Pedigree of the MD

Boye Olusanya is a veteran of the boardroom battle for name changes in the Nigerian telecom industry. As Deputy CEO of the now Airtel Nigeria, he had been part of a team that managed the then seemingly intractable crises of identity that the brand was battling. He was there when Econet became V-Networks for a few days before becoming V Mobile. He was there when Celtel took over the brand and added a dash of red to the identity. Boye was not missing when Zain and the current Airtel also came. He then moved on to another company owned by Dangote Group before returning to familiar feisty territory, to manage a brand transition, the type of which he had handled four times in his career.

With a man of his experience leading the executive management, it would be easy to win the ears of other members of the team who would willingly wish to utilize his experience in this transitional period.

9 Mobile

9 Mobile

2. The 9 in 9ja entry

9Mobile came into the market 9 years ago with an entry proposition that strongly connected with the teeming Nigerian youth. With its entry theme song, 0809ja For Life, which starred Banky W, it was easy for the brand to drill entry holes into a market thought to have been saturated.

Although the conspiracy of lowering voice revenue spurred by a multiplicity emerging alternative voice platforms like WhatsApp, IMO, Facebook Messenger among others, slowed revenue, it retained its perception even among competition, as the brand to beat. This was very visible even for an outsider in the campaigns of most of competition. This success was chiefly fired by the perception that the brand was connected to the “street” in this case suggesting the youth demographic.

With this, it will be easy for people to draw strong relationships with the brand that took the 9ja street lingo to the boardrooms and came out with products depicting their struggles. The campaign being rolled out will also deliberately target this people, locating them where they are making music, partying and expressing their youthfulness.

There’s is something like a winner here for them

3. Closeness to old ID

Most scholars of marketing would advise that in brand identity change, effort must be made to NOT depart too radically from the past, where possible. They say it affects recall and creates confusion in the minds of the public.

Well, the 9 in 9Mobile is sure going to solve part of the problem by reminding folks of the entry proposition of 0809ja for Life that has become the background theme song for all campaigns since the debut of this brand in Nigeria.

Another thing that was done right was the choice of colour. It was creative of the board to have approved colour themes that are not too radically far from what Etisalat used while they were here. And even the house fonts. Most people will not notice this and may go away thinking it was same old Etisalat fonts that 9Mobile is riding on.

They are not the same. But most would not notice and wherever anyone sees it, even without the logo, the recall process will immediately go full circle.

4. Creative Agency influence

In a bid to reinvent, most brands would, at a challenging period like the one faced by 9Mobile, employ a new agency to manage its transition. Retaining the creative agency that has been handling the brand was a winner and helped in creating the strong link between the present and the past.

X3M ideas, the Creative Agency behind the 9Mobile identity have been with the brand from inception. Its CEO, Steve Babaeko was the Creative Director that launched the brand while working at 141 Worldwide Nigeria. He moved with the brand when he set up shop and from managing an aspect of the brand, X3M has taken full charge, enabling the 360 degree thinking behind the new identity.

5. Proudly Nigerian slant

The conversation in Nigeria at the moment favours the “proudly Nigerian” spirit. Government has been mouthing it for some years and is rolling our strong messaging to drive that home, especially as recession bites.

I spoke with Boye at the reveal and he also made a point to tell the invited contingent of Nigerian journalists that the transition was being managed by an entirely Nigerian team. They really planned for this. Although a few foreigners were seen loitering around the company’s premises and event venue on the day, there was a deliberate effort to ensure a Nigerian occupation of the “high table” and photo opportunity.

This will resonate with everyone.

6. The Bull’s Eye message in the logo

L-R: Head, Marketing Communications, Seni Ogunkola; Chief Executive Officer, Boye Olusanya; Chief Financial Officer, Funke Ighodaro and Director, Brands and Experience, Elvis Ogiemwanye,

L-R: Head, Marketing Communications, Seni Ogunkola; Chief Executive Officer, Boye Olusanya; Chief Financial Officer, Funke Ighodaro and Director, Brands and Experience, Elvis Ogiemwanye,

Many people will just end up looking at the 9Mobile logo withour actually realising what it means and what it is doing to them.

You see, I have grown accustomed to examining company logos beyond mere appearances. Their psychologocal effects on us is even more critical, although those who make them do it in such a way that we do not even realise its effect on us.

I am not sure many people have read the history of the iconic Apple logo as I have done. I am not about going to dwell on that here. But has anyone noticed the bull’s eye in the 9 in 9Mobile’s logo? It is not there for beauty’s sake alone. It is also not there because there us a rounded place in 9 that requires filling up.

That black and while circular pattern there is the bulls eye. It is the sign of marksmanship. In a battlion of soldiers, there can only be one or two snipers.

9Mobile is not just telling you, but making you disposed to acceepting its brand as one that hits the bulls eye all the time. Did you notice the network signal going out from the bulls eye? It is also a message you will take in without knowing and the are just telling you in pictures that they are the centre of working connectivity.

That is something like an eternal promise that will be hitting you, everyday. How the market responds to this will be another matter of review in the coming days.

But it looks good.

7. NCC report and regulatory intervention

A report by regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission may come in handy for the brand. According to the recent report, only 1,826 customers of former Etisalat Nigeria, now 9mobile, ported to other networks in May, giving a decrease of 111 that left, when compared with 1,937 users that left in April. On the flip side was an encouraging 15,253 customers that ported in during the same period. This made the brand number one in the industry.

That the brand was in the midst of a boardroom crises that triggered frighteningly negative press when consumers were porting in is evidence of something link loyalty. It may also be a marketing tool at a time like this.

8. Speed in responses

The interval between the deadline issued by Etisalat for its former Nigerian partner to stop using its name and other brand collaterals was two weeks. It was short even by all considerations.

That 9Mobile was able to discover a new name, clean all about Etisalat, stream a caller ring back to all customer lines, create, customize and patent its house fonts and logo is a marketing cases study worth documenting. It saved it needless litigation and shortened the lifespan of the crises it was going through.

9. The Airtel experience and number equity

Airtel went through the same crises. They were in it four or five times. They survived. They have stabilized. They are still number 3 in the market in terms of number of subscribers. The brand has stabilized, by every available metric

If Airtel was able to overcome those number of brand identity changes, 9Mobile will survive one or the widely two.

Of note also is the equity people attach to phone lines. Folks who are not into fraudulent transactions will not change their phone numbers that easily. It is a tough decision. You just cannot drop a phone number that you have been using for business and other purposes for 9 years plus just because a brand changed its name. People may port. But even then the percentage is quite low and this also requires a lot of deciding to happen.

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