Ebru Özgüc graduated from EU Business School with an MBA in International Business in 1995. “Wow, that many years,” she laughed as she introduced herself. And this was very much her tone throughout her talk; warm, open, and at times, self-deprecating, ready to admit to her mistakes. She spoke very candidly to her audience about the challenges she faced as the Global Head of Brand & Communications for Vodafone Business during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

She has over 25 years’ experience in the sales and marketing sector, the majority of which she has spent working for 3M in her native Turkey, in addition to three years leading marketing for Europe, while based in Paris. Her move to Vodafone in July 2012 (then as the Head of Enterprise Marketing) marked the start of an adventure – working for a new company, with a new team, in a new industry of which she had no prior knowledge. Everything changed again when she was offered her present role. She relocated to London with her family, where she was promoted to Global Head of Brand & Communications.”

Ebru estimates that she’s spent more than half her career working in the B2B space. So, to say she was surprised to be offered the Global Head of Brand role would be an understatement. When she asked the Vodafone executives why they had chosen to appoint her to this position, she was told it was down to her determination and her unique way of bringing people together.

In fact, the focus of her presentation was on bringing people together. Or, as Vodafone’s brand purpose puts it, connecting them for a better future.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the changes Ebru has been in charge of implementing as the Global Head of Brand & Communications for Vodafone Business during the pandemic.

“The future is exciting. Ready?”

In March 2020, a number of markets went into lockdown for the first time, causing widespread uncertainty and fear. No one was looking forward to the future anymore, no one was prepared for what was coming. Just like that, Vodafone’s optimistic slogan, “The future is exciting. Ready?”, lost all its relevance and power.

The branding team realized they had to update their tagline to resonate with their customers in the changed marketplace. Their first attempt was simply reducing their slogan to “Ready?”. Meanwhile, the team started analyzing the global brand landscape in detail in order to successfully reposition themselves with a more relevant tagline.

The global landscape is changing fast, and global brand leaders are working hard to build new, deeper relationships with their customers. The four high level consumer trends that the Vodafone branding team has identified are:

  • Value driven – customers these days want to “buy into”, not just “buy from”; they need to form an emotional connection with the brand. E.g., Patagonia doubled their revenue in the five years between 2012-2017 by taking a strong stand on sustainable clothing.
  • Collective and interactive – customers want to feel like they’re joining a community. E.g., Airbnb has over 1 million hosts in its global community.
  • Opinionated and principled – they want to see brands taking a stand. A 2018 study by Accenture revealed that 62% of consumers want companies to stand up for the issues they care about.
  • Act as part of a bigger brand ecosystem – but they don’t want to see brands standing alone. The same survey by Accenture revealed that nearly half of brands are actively looking to ecosystems as a way to form new business models.

The power of purpose-led brands

According to a 2020 study by Kantar, brands with a high sense of purpose have experienced a brand valuation increase of 17.5% over the past 12 years compared to the median growth rate of 86%. This is because purpose-led brands are able to connect with new audiences and build better relationships with their customers.

  • New audiences – Purpose-led brands connect with the growing number of predominantly younger audiences who value brands that are seen to contribute to a wider societal mission.
  • New loyalty – Purpose-led brands create a deeper relationship with their customers, who connect with the brand’s beliefs and behaviors above just buying its products, delivering greater quality and higher recommendations.
  • New friends – Purpose-led brands can more successfully collaborate with other brands that share the same ambitions, extending the reach and relevance of both.

Purpose is a defining feature of modern brands such as Unilever, Patagonia, Nike, Tesla, and Gillette.

In order to appeal to the younger generation themselves, Vodafone returned to their own brand purpose, “We connect for a better future”, and thought about what that would mean in a post-pandemic world.

Instead of, “The future is exciting. Ready?”, which no longer resonated with their target audience, they introduced their new tagline as “Together we can” with a formula which proved that technology plus the human spirit was the best way forward for a better future.

Vodafone is a brand that’s driven by the human spirit. They believe that’s what creates progress in the world. As such, their brand identity is designed to respond and adapt to that spirit wherever it is seen. Their brand is firmly located in the digital space, and they wanted to add more motion to their branding in 2021. When they updated their brand’s creative identity, they made the speech mark logo their central focus. They have since launched 40 different versions of this speech mark, some surrounded by waves, bolts of lightning, etc., to make it more dynamic and appealing for younger audiences.

Throughout the pandemic, we have relied on technology to stay in touch in both our work and our personal lives. However, there were people who felt overwhelmed by the surge in technology, as if it were taking them over completely. Vodafone’s response was to turn this on its head and demonstrate that technology works for us (not the other way around). This led to the introduction of the strapline, “Together we can”. We can use technology to create a better future, ensuring no one is left behind, while working for the well-being of our planet.

Feeling inspired by Ebru’s journey? Check out the course structure and entry requirements for our MBA in International Business online today.

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