It has become very fashionable for GSM service providers to select certain well known faces to act as brand ambassadors, a role which no doubt comes with ample remuneration. This is usually done as a way of capturing the mindshare of customers who would associate these celebrities with the GSM companies and in turn would lead to higher patronage and generate new subscribers for these networks. Celebrity endorsements in the western world is a common thing, and yield mutual benefits, but given the climes we find ourselves in, I am moved to ask if these celebrity endorsements really work? And to me, the answer has to be a capital “NO“.
For quite some time I have watched Globacom Nigeria announce a variety of actors, actresses and now musicians as brand ambassadors to help drive the adoption of it’s services. So far, for all its efforts this has only gotten the telco to the number position 2 (something that might also be due to the more than frequent changes in name and ownership of the third GSM coy). A close look reveals that the gap between the #2 and #3 GSM companies in terms of subscriber base is a measly figure less than 200,000. In contrast, MTN holds almost double amount of subscribers that Glo alone has (51.3 million to 23.8 million respectively). That is a gap of at least 27 million subscribers.
Consider that Airtel has spent much more less on celebrity endorsements (the only artist that I can recall they have been associated with is 2 face) when compared to Glo which has gone through numerous celebrities from the likes of D’Banj, P-Square, Basketmouth, Nadia Buhari, to lots more. If all these ambassador deals have not been able to help Glo outpace Airtel in subscriber numbers, why do they even bother? Instead of wasting (yes; wasting) all those resources in courting these brand ambassadors, why not deploy them in making their tariff plans better and more attractive for the customers? The Infinito plan was a good start, but they killed it for other ill-thought out plans like the Hi-5ive Gbam and others not worth remembering.
This is not to say that advertising doesn’t work. Sure, it does but you have to advertise a product that is worth it for the customer. One bad experience can ruin it for a customer and probably keep him and anyone close to him from using your service (word of mouth is a powerful tool). Why not invest more funds in i proving quality of service for subscribers? This telecoms brand ambassadors thing is clearly not working.
NB: The subscriber numbers come from the NCC Online Database for the first quarter of 2013.