It remains one of the most high-profile marketing campaigns this summer. Reliance Communications (RCom) has left no stone unturned in its attempt at promoting its alliance with Google for pushing its Android operating system and mobile services respectively.
The telecom operator, which has the second-largest subscriber base in India after Airtel (Reliance has over 150 million subscribers to Airtel's 180 million), has just unleashed the country's first facebook-based augmented reality (AR) game, which is part of the larger Be Blue campaign that has been on for the last one month.
Reliance in April became only the fourth telecom operator after Verizon in the US, KDDI in Japan and Telstra in Australia to be the exclusive partner of Google. Reliance will help push Android by giving added benefits to its 3G subscribers that have devices that use the operating system. Mobile services will include Google trademark products such as Youtube, Google Plus and Google Maps besides various other applications that the search giant and Reliance will create exclusively as part of the marketing alliance.
While AR itself is not new - advertisers in the last few years have used the technology to create illusions of objects either in ads or during events, the most famous example being the use of a cheetah by Mahindra & Mahindra to promote its sports utility vehicles (SUVs) during the Auto Expo this year – a facebook-based interactive game has never been done before.
Social Wavelength, the agency that created the online game, says the idea behind it was to do something exciting. "It had to be out-of-the-box," says Sanjay Mehta, joint chief executive officer and co-founder, Social Wavelength. "AR on facebook is something unique. We thought why not try it," he says.
Facebook users have to download a logo from the Reliance Communications page and bring it in front of a webcam-based desktop or laptop. The moment they do that, the Google Android mascot called Bot, will freeze in front of the user's screen. He or she can then get the Bot to dance by playing three levels of an online game, explains Mehta. Final winners will bag gift prizes, he says.
Reliance, according to Sanjay Behl, group head, brand & marketing, Reliance Communications, hopes to engage users of social media, who are also potential 3G users, with an interesting game. "The last time social media was used was a month ago when the Be Blue campaign was first launched on TV, print and outdoor. This was in April, where users had to download an application from facebook, which showed the Bot slowly turning blue from green, the original colour of the mascot. This created a lot of curiosity," Behl says.
Since launch, the Rs 30-crore Be Blue campaign has helped Reliance add 3G subscribers, according to company officials. Currently, the company has over 3 million 3G subscribers. Rival Airtel, on the other hand, has nearly 9 million 3G subscribers in a total universe of about 12-13 million.
While Reliance still trails Airtel in the 3G universe, the company, say brand and marketing experts, has done well in creating the necessary hype around its alliance with Google in the marketplace. "Look around you and the campaign is just all over the place on TV, radio and internet," says Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer, Harish Bijoor Consults.
Airtel has responded to Reliance's marketing hype by slashing prices of its 3G services by 70 per cent under some plans recently. The move is likely to set off a price war, though Behl of Reliance refuses to comment about it.
Airtel's move is also likely to result in the addition of more subscribers, something most players have been clamouring to do. Of the more than 900 million mobile phone users in India, just 1.3 to 1.4 per cent use 3G services. Telecom analysts say that with prices falling the market for these services is likely to grow, a trend that also helped the larger mobile phone market in India take-off almost a decade ago.
For now, Reliance has made available Google's trademark products to its 3G users. Some additional features such as career billing, which means that subscribers will be charged for paid applications in their bill rather than paying online, and expert customer care, will begin next month.