It’s not as though the company isn’t successful, it’s valued at a hardly insignificant £84bn and it’s just offloaded a four per cent investment in China Mobile for a hunky £4bn.
But boss Vittorio Colao has clearly fallen out with his newish marketing director Wendy Becker, appointed just a year ago from the UK’s TalkTalk, not just sidelining her to the non-job of ‘customer experience’ but appearing to abolish marketing as a separate department entirely, making it the function of a rather nebulous-sounding business unit.
Maybe the big noises at Vodafone have decided that its marketing people and the campaigns they initiated have just created more problems than they’ve solved (at no little cost).
Both JWT and BBH have tried and failed to come up with a brand proposition and creative execution that seemed remotely compelling. This despite the presence of some old advertising hands at Vodafone including former global brand director David Wheldon.
Probably the most memorable was JWT’s ‘make the most of now’ but the execution was mundane – and so was the strategy to be honest. After all, you’re hardly likely to approach the world with ‘make the most of then.’ So it was simply stating the obvious, not the way to win hearts and budgets.
Like quite a lot of successful businesses Vodafone seems to know how to keep things moving commercially but not have the faintest idea about what it stands for with consumers and why all these millions of people buy its products. The agencies don’t seem to either.
In the old days such companies used to have advertising managers rather than marketing directors or chief marketing officers. Perhaps Vodafone should revert to that: just hire someone to produce a few decent ad campaigns rather than get into a bun fight with the board over strategy.
Oil companies, for example, don’t bother with marketing and advertising these days, unless they’re faced with a PR problem as BP was with the Deepwater Horizon disaster. They think, rightly or wrongly, they’re just too big to need to bother with it.