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Mixed reactions as Celtel changes to Zain

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th July 2008 03:00 AM


CELTEL Uganda will next month be known as the Zain Company, in an ongoing process to unify the Zain brand, sources close to the company have said. The Zain Group owns Celtel, the pan-African mobile phone firm.


CELTEL Uganda will next month be known as the Zain Company, in an ongoing process to unify the Zain brand, sources close to the company have said. The Zain Group owns Celtel, the pan-African mobile phone firm.

By Wambui Oyulu

CELTEL Uganda will next month be known as the Zain Company, in an ongoing process to unify the Zain brand, sources close to the company have said. The Zain Group owns Celtel, the pan-African mobile phone firm.

Its parent company is MTC of Kuwait. Uganda will have joined Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain and the Sudan that were the first operators to undergo the Zain rebranding. To build up the hype, the group is flying in renowned Haitian artist Wyclef Jean for a major concert in August to launch the brand.

There has been no official confirmation from Celtel Uganda. But sources familiar with the process explained that “a lot better change was expected for Celtel after Wyclef’s concert.”

The full-page Wyclef Jean concert adverts presented in black, purple and green, the Zain colours, suggest the re-branding process has began.

Tito Alai, the Zain Group chief commercial officer, is the brain behind the re-branding.

“The name Zain was selected from a list of over 400 extensive researches across many countries and cultures. This validated its broad global appeal,” Alai explained.

“Zain tested extremely well among cross-sections of the potential global audience and with a planned investment will become a formidable brand within a short period.”

The rebranding will see a choice of dark theme and purple fantasy to replace the vibrant renowned Celtel yellow and red brand that for the last three years underwent a major re-branding from its former orange and white and an advertising blitz that has seen their ratings rise significantly.

In the last three years, the Celtel brand has become so entrenched observers wonder whether by changing to Zain, they will not risk alienating the consumers.

Celtel decided two years ago to increase its advertising budget which saw a unified message throughout the continent. Industry sources said the brand succeeded in surpassing its rival MTN at some point in media buying.

Its strategy was to take MTN on toe-for-toe, blow-for-blow. The rival went on outdoor advertising blitz, Celtel followed suit, the rival brought a renowned international Reggae group, and Celtel replied with Senegalese star Akon and got its public excited.

However, the re-branding has attracted mixed reactions from the local users.
It also makes one wonder what such a change would mean to a Celtel user or a small-scale airtime retailer? Mary Namubiru, a domestic worker, wondered where she would buy airtime.

Peter Odoki of Makerere Business School said he was used to the red and yellow colours.

“The combination of purple, black and yellow looks like the colours of doom,” he asserted. He, however, said change was after all always good.

“The word sounds funky and it will probably move away from the ghost of the past during Celtel Uganda’s inception, where some people felt like they were being ripped off,” Odoki said.
A market expert wondered why Celtel has to change to Zain after 14 years of existence.

“Can’t they retain the name Celtel but still be part of Zain?” he asked.
He argued that re-branding an already popular product might affect the perception the public have about it. This is especially to those who want to be associated with the brand and the loyal ones.

The brand Zain was picked carefully to show the Arabian identity, but even the change from MTC to Zain continues to bring mixed feelings as far as brand is concerned.

The reality will hit Ugandans in August but the question is, after an advertising blitz that has remarkably entrenched the Celtel brand, how will the change to Zain affect the customer?

Dr. Saad Al Barrak, the Zain Group chief executive officer, argued that the rebranding was a bold move away from conventional product, service and commodity branding to a position where the brand makes a positive impact and real contribution to the lives of their customers.

Ugandans have woken up to the power of brands. It remains to be seen whether there will be a meaningful impact especially in this period of tough competitions among the operators.

Maybe we can expect vigorous advertising around the time Celtel effects the change from its competition, with the immediate beneficiary being the media.

A Steadman Group’s report said in the recent past, the media had “hugely benefited by the advertising rivalry.
“And with the change to Zain, they can expect even more.” The question remains what does the public gain from the brand overhaul? That’s what we are yet to find out come August.

Mixed reactions as Celtel changes to Zain

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