Their entry into the Ghanaian market was under a thick cloud of controversy. But one can say through great marketing and advertisement, Vodafone Ghana has managed to bury that bumpy start. As such, it is only natural to expect that this will be one telecommunications company which will shy away from any form of awkward dispute; or at the most dine at the table of “necessary contention” with a long spoon.
As such, it came as a surprise to many when Vodafone was reported to have caused the arrest, detention and transfer of a young man alleged to have defaced their recharge card. A careful look at the issue quickly reveals three angles of consideration. One being that of legal rights: for both the company and the young man involved; secondly the issue of brand implications for Vodafone; and finally the duty of Corporate Social Responsibility of a mega corporate of their kind.
On the legal front, while Vodafone may have the right to cause the arrest of Kwadwo Amakye (the young man in question), a few questions remain to be asked. Was Amakye duly granted bail in accordance to statutory requirements? Under what circumstance was he transferred from Takoradi to Airport Police Station in Accra? Does matters such as this allow for the transfer of an accused from one jurisdiction, away from his family and loved ones to another several miles off; at the whim of the complainant?
Though Vodafone may have a case, it must be established that their rights end where that of the accused starts. So in the frantic effort to exert their right, did they in any way abuse that of Amakye? As a matter of precedence, so as to avert future incidences of corporates violating the rights of citizens in such an unruly manner, these considerations must be taken up by our investigative journalists and security agencies. That Vodafone has dropped the charges, ostensibly due to public outcry, does not suffice as reason enough to let sleeping dogs lie. The right of the citizen must not be treated as an afterthought when it regards corporates; it must be paramount.
On the matter of protecting their brand, I wonder why Vodafone, a service provider, thought a show of shock and awe was the way to go. Such a draconian stance did nothing but made the brand come across as a sourpuss. It only portrayed Vodafone as a mean fire spitting dragon quick to fry off any minnow that dares poke fun at them. Such a far-reaching measure would have been appreciated if it was established that Amakye’s trolling activities were instigated as a knocking copy of sorts from competitors. But in the absence of that, their response remains a corporate goof of mammoth dimensions. Any victory that they expected would have been at best pyrrhic.
In an attempt to protect their image, Vodafone should have been advised that so far as branding is concerned; being as right as a square is totally irrelevant if your actions do not evoke the desirable emotions from the public. Therefore, it would have been more apt if this bad publicity was turned into a marketing opportunity; instead of that exercise of legal futility.
From where I stand, Amakye’s trolling, though out of place, reveals two things from the marketing perspective. That the “Try Again” seen again and again by Vodafone clients in their promo has become monotonous and boring. Secondly, it reveals that the entire space could be used to send positive or even seasonal messages to clients who ‘scratched’ but did not win; considering the fact that we’re inching closer to the yuletide. How good and pleasant it would have been if Vodafone had gotten Amakye to recant publicly; while they go on to dole out dollops of inspiration in that space. How about that instead of the overplayed monotone of “Try Again”? In fact, that to me would be the heights of a comeback, rather than any show of brawn.
Lastly on the matter of brand, I believe the likes of Amakye, who embark on unguided fun trips, are not as much a threat to Vodafone’s corporate image as are the cable thieves who keep truncating my broadband connection; and I believe that of many of their clients. I was thus incensed to see that they would rather quickly pick up the likes of Amakye, when I usually have to wait, sometimes up to a fortnight, for them to come fix my challenges despite ceaseless reports. If Vodafone needs to do real brand protection, then their resources are better deployed at those cable thieves and also at averting call drops, noise and the general inefficiencies that characterize the provision of telecom services in this country.
Finally, though not mandated, I believe it would be proper for Vodafone to consider that, as a corporate of their standing; they owe the areas in which they operate some innovative recognition of requisite social responsibility. As such, if they recognize that a group of young IT persons are misguided in the deployment of their skills, it would be only positive if they help in reorienting them; instead of pioneering the cause of throwing them in jail cells.
Contrary to their slogan, I believe Vodafone and other corporates must know that they do not give power to clients; but rather, their power emanates from the people. Henceforth, they must realize that such a high handed approach of dealing with people is not the way to go.