Safaricom, Airtel Marketing War: Who Will Blink First?

By Zak Syengo / March 6, 2019




In 2018, Safaricom lost its market share by 1.6% to close Q4 at 65.4% down from 67%. While this is a marginal number in terms of percentage points, it is a magical magnitude when it comes to customer numbers.

Much of these customers acquired new cards with Airtel, Telkom, and Equitel but the reality is, some might have retained their Safaricom cards for reasons best known to them.

Airtel and Safaricom competition has dominated telecommunications discussions since the turn of the century.

Price wars have previously been the battleground until some level of threshold was reached that allows little or no flexibility for significant cost reductions.

Safaricom took the market leadership with per second billing, something Airtel has to play catch up despite high brand metamorphosis over the years.

Mobile money also provided an avenue for flexing muscles for a number of years until stability was achieved, and discussions shifted to regulatory affairs. A lot of lobbying was done last year seeking Safaricom to split its business into two, in a sense dilute the assumed monopoly state in compliance with existing competition rules.

Data, voice, and mobile money have been the premises on which a number of campaigns have been rolled out in the effort to gain market share. In all these, Safaricom seems to be the punching bag.

What has captured the attention of most consumers is the recent campaigns by both Telkom and Airtel that have reduced the promotions to bare-knuckled boxing. This is not a new phenomenon though; the world has seen worse days.

In 2012, The Times of India launched ‘the Wake-Up!’ featuring readers from Chennai being put to sleep by a newspaper full of boring news. This was obviously aimed at discrediting The Hindu. The Hindu hit back and told its readers to ‘Stay Ahead of the Times’ by accessing news that was relevant to current affairs instead of gossip from Bollywood. This was supported by television commercials and print ads.

In the US, Burger King has previously used McDonald’s mascot in a brand bashing initiative in which it did not use the name of McDonald but the brand colors were clearly McDonald’s.  The campaign was loaded with freebies and send out the persuasive notion that even McDonald customers had agreed to patronage Burger King delicacies.

Closer home, the two leading media houses in Kenya squared in a series of print ads discrediting the value proposition on whose ground each attracts advertisers. Nation Media stood on the grounds of “the Truth “backed by statistics about Daily Nation as the most widely read newspaper, while The Standard portrayed the dwindling numbers for the competition. By the end of the day, the consumers were more confused, unless those who dug deeper into available research.

As a product development and brand management enthusiast, I find the recent assault by Airtel, and previously Telkom so asymmetrical.  Probably the brand managers in these organizations should ask themselves why despite promising attractive packages, lower rates, and even free services in some instances, the rate of adoption is very low.

They should interrogate why Safaricom does not hawk SIM cards in the streets but still almost maintain their market share. Probably, they should find out why despite Safaricom being branded as expensive still maintains a lead in all aspects of mobile telephony in Kenya.

There is more than advertising, whether digital or through conventional platforms. A full product and services offering must consider the product itself, price, place and obviously the promotion.

Nothing illustrates this than the Resist Movement after the 2017 elections. I remember my mother standing up to a local politician over telecommunication services. She knew all the ‘green’ related services are available and reliable in the village. All the other mobile services providers are not available to her, and worse, the working mobile money provider preferred by Resist was 95km away. As a consumer, she had to make a choice.

Consider also the fact that Kenyans are a closely knit family whose ideas and cultures must be considered in designing a product. There is a very high chance of family members maintaining mobile lines from the same telecom. I have seen this over the years were mostly driven by accessibility by all parties.

In my opinion, the recent combats will only serve one purpose, creating brand awareness but not strengthening or creating a bigger market share. Feel and touch leading to customer experience will.





More Articles From This Author








Other Related Articles










SOKO DIRECTORY & FINANCIAL GUIDE

ARCHIVES

2019
  • January 2019 (256)
  • February 2019 (216)
  • March 2019 (214)
  • 2018
  • January 2018 (291)
  • February 2018 (220)
  • March 2018 (279)
  • April 2018 (226)
  • May 2018 (240)
  • June 2018 (178)
  • July 2018 (257)
  • August 2018 (250)
  • September 2018 (256)
  • October 2018 (287)
  • November 2018 (286)
  • December 2018 (187)
  • 2017
  • January 2017 (183)
  • February 2017 (195)
  • March 2017 (207)
  • April 2017 (104)
  • May 2017 (169)
  • June 2017 (206)
  • July 2017 (190)
  • August 2017 (196)
  • September 2017 (186)
  • October 2017 (235)
  • November 2017 (253)
  • December 2017 (266)
  • 2016
  • January 2016 (167)
  • February 2016 (165)
  • March 2016 (190)
  • April 2016 (143)
  • May 2016 (246)
  • June 2016 (183)
  • July 2016 (271)
  • August 2016 (250)
  • September 2016 (234)
  • October 2016 (191)
  • November 2016 (243)
  • December 2016 (153)
  • 2015
  • January 2015 (1)
  • February 2015 (4)
  • March 2015 (166)
  • April 2015 (109)
  • May 2015 (117)
  • June 2015 (121)
  • July 2015 (150)
  • August 2015 (157)
  • September 2015 (189)
  • October 2015 (171)
  • November 2015 (174)
  • December 2015 (208)
  • 2014
  • March 2014 (2)
  • 2013
  • March 2013 (10)
  • June 2013 (1)
  • 2012
  • March 2012 (7)
  • April 2012 (15)
  • May 2012 (1)
  • July 2012 (1)
  • August 2012 (4)
  • October 2012 (2)
  • November 2012 (2)
  • December 2012 (1)
  • 2011
    2010
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    2001
    2000
    1999
    1998
    1997
    1996
    1995
    1994
    1993
    1992
    1991
    1990
    1989
    1988
    1987
    1986
    1985
    1984
    1983
    1982
    1981
    1980
    1979
    1978
    1977
    1976
    1975
    1974
    1973
    1972
    1971
    1970
    1969
    1968
    1967
    1966
    1965
    1964
    1963
    1962
    1961
    1960
    1959
    1958
    1957
    1956
    1955
    1954
    1953
    1952
    1951
    1950