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Vodafone has announced that it is refreshing its brand and embarking on a new marketing campaign, with the objective of raising its global profile and refining its brand values.  No complaints there – it’s a global business in a very competitive market, so it has to be continually evolving how it is seen and perceived by its customers.

It has spent a year – and presumably quite a bit of money – on a new tagline;

Power to you.

Now, last time we looked, Vodafone was a mobile communications company and not a power generator, a utilities company or a battery manufacturer.

As a trends-based agency, we’re trying to work out what trend or trends could have influenced this decision.   Maybe it relates to the recognition that there is and has been for some time a mood for change through consumer power, right to reply and ‘activism’ is becoming a much more fashionable word these days – so much so that the brilliant 70’s TV show Citizen Smith wouldn’t be at all out of place on our TV screens now ( I can feel a ‘Bring Wolfie Back’ campaign brewing.)  The trouble is we’re not entirely sure the latest campaign from Vodafone has quite captured the right tone of voice for their market.

Vodafone’s view is that they want their customers to know that they are now in charge, which of course implies that – until now – Vodafone has been.  So is it a transfer of power then, from supplier to customer?  One of our designers has a phone on Vodafone so we’ve had him trying to prove that he is now the dominant force in his commercial relationship with them;

“I want to half the amount that I pay you every month because I am now in charge”…nope, can’t do that.

“I want everyone in the world to be given free ice cream”…nope, can’t do that either.

“Start collecting my bins weekly”…nope, no luck there.

And even, in a Yoda voice “I have absolutely power, yes”…nope, nothing.

So does it mean that Vodafone customers – now armed with not just power but Power – can form an intermediate group and rise up against their contract masters?

There’s some blurb about empowerment (ahh, Vodafone’s senior management have been on an Anthony Robbins motivational seminar) but is the call to action of the campaign – buy a smartphone cos it does stuff on t’internet – not more about enablement?  Empowering is giving someone the authority to do something, which Vodafone customers already have.  Enablement is giving them the capability – through new generation mobile devices – to do things that they were empowered to do previously but couldn’t because of the technology or – cynically – because they weren’t lured by the excessive cost of mobile internet access; £15 pm for 3GB…er, no thanks.

Perhaps the best comment though comes from CEO Vittorio Colao who says that the campaign is about; “the fact that people should have the joy of having their life in their hands”.  Presumably not in the context of ‘playing on the motorway, you take your life in your hands’ or ‘juggling chainsaws…you take your life in your hands’.