On Thursday, 5 October, Vodacom’s consumer business unit chief officer, Nyimpini Mabunda, walked assembled journalists, including media update’s Adam Wakefield, through the re-branding at their head offices in Midrand.

Basing changes on research

The seeds of the rebranding were planted by Vodacom and its majority shareholder, Vodafone, commissioning a study to assess to what extent the public were optimistic or pessimistic about the future and the company’s prospects.

The study, which canvassed 13 000 people across 14 countries including South Africa, found that 41% of South Africans surveyed believed the standard of living in the country will be better in 20 years’ time. This was a more optimistic view compared to their peers in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

It also revealed that all age groups believe that technological innovation will have the most positive influence on the future over the next 20 years, and 18-to-24-years-old are the most optimistic about the future.

“Our ambition, our mission, is to be a leading digital company. We see ourselves beyond telecommunications. We see ourselves beyond just connecting people for communications,” Mabunda said.

Given the study’s results, Vodacom saw an opportunity to position itself as a brand that helps consumers navigate the future.

Creating a future-ready brand

Mabunda said Vodacom’s shift to digital is in line with its 2020 vision, and emphasising this vision is its new tagline, “The future is exciting. Ready?”, and refreshed logo.

The brand repositioning is taking place across all 36 countries that Vodafone operates in, highlighting in all of those markets that new technologies and digital services will play a positive role in transforming society and enhancing individual quality of life in the future.

Accompanying the rebrand and repositioning is an advertising campaign which Mabunda described as one the largest ever run by the company.

Incorporating Big Data and machine learning

Big data and artificial intelligence are revolutionising the way business is conducted, and asked where machine learning fits into Vodacom’s digital focus, Mabunda said the company places paramount importance on innovation within the digital space. This is so it can improve its products and services, with machine learning and artificial intelligence inseparable from this innovation.

“One of our publicly stated big bets is Big Data and we are investing a lot of money in that space. It’s very important for a business like us,” Mabunda said.

“AI is also critical. Take an area like our call centre, for instance. We are a business with 39 million customers and a lot of time is taken by customers trying to identify themselves when they call us. We need predictive analytics to know why they are calling us and to be able to sort their problems before they call us. Customer service is key.”

He said Vodacom needs to be able to know who its customers are via voice recognition, anticipate why they are calling, and automatically route them to the agent that best serves them, so that problems are solved as quickly as possible.

“All of that requires machine learning. We need to be able to recommend to our customers what is the right contract for them when they come to a Vodacom shop without them even trying to say which one of the 20 various offers they should go for, based on their usage, and that requires machine learning,” Mabunda said.

“When we talk about ‘The future is exciting’ and products and services we need to develop, it is how that technology helps us move our processes. Make them faster, and make them simpler to the customer. We are really excited about that opportunity.”

For more information, visit www.vodacom.co.za