Telecel #TellSomeone, imitation is the greatest form of flattery

Nigel Gambanga Avatar

Telecel RedIt all started with Telecel’s successful rebranding exercise in February 2012. The network operator managed to craft a tagline, “Go Ahead, TellSomeone”, that effectively combined their brand name with a viral marketing concept to their user experience that every user had to “tell someone” about.

NetOne, in what seemed like a quest to create steam for its own brand “rediscovery”, took a swing at this new brand identity and catchphrase by using its own “Don’t Tell Someone, Tell Everyone” tag.

This took different forms, including most recently “Share with EVERYONE.”As a dig at its closest rival it was, at its very least, playful and in many ways an indication of where the NetOne team’s core competitive focus lies.

A couple of days ago this telecoms brand #tellall took a new twist when Econet announced a one month, zero-rated Twitter special. As anyone would expect, this promotion has been largely boosted through social media, particularly the Twitter platform itself. Econet, taking a leaf from NetOne (or should I say Telecel?) kicked off the Twitter promotion with a tweet that read “Now you #tellsomeone” 

Econet Copies TelecelThis really wasn’t much of a big deal really. It’s common practice as Twitter is an open platform that is best suited for such word play and brand taunting. Hashtags are fair game.

Econet however has carried this #TellSomeone tussle onto its ad campaigns for the Twitter promotion and other services.

Econet’s latest ad is a more deliberate jab at Telecel, combining a red background(Telecel’s corporate colour) , a highly suggestive word reference to Telecel (“Its time to upgrade your tele…communications provider” Seriously?)  and of course the #TellEveryone tag.

As far as legal implications are concerned Econet and NetOne are well within their rights. Telecel does not have any copyright to the phrase TellSomeone. This explains the extensive use of the phrase and its likeness from the two competitors.

Granted there are no legal ramifications from all this but one would expect more from NetOne and especially Econet as the market leader. Although It’s now evident who is being viewed as serious competition by both these operators, there seems to be a lack of creativity if these two cannot come up with their own one liners. So much for being “Inspired”.

Telecel is however taking this quietly and “charging it to the game.” According to one Telecel official this whole #tellall ad storm conducted by NetOne and recently Econet is an expected aspect of a competitive telecoms environment.

Telecel is yet to offer an official or ad related response to the actions of both Econet and NetOne. It seems it’s not bothered and can justifiably state how imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

Do you think that there is anything wrong with the smart ad approach being used by Econet and NetOne? Should Telecel respond in any way? You can leave your comments regarding this issue in the comments below.



  1. Tirivashe Mundondo

    I guess the guys who did branding at #Telecel are smiling looking at competition embrace the idea. This becomes the case when your idols become your rivals. Kudos to #telecel for leading by example.

  2. candy

    A more serious head on marketin is e Savanna Tobacco & BAT where Savana put a billboard outside BAT premise with e followin msg, ” Not British, Not American, Zimbabwe’s Premium Cigarettes” sumthin lyk tht

    1. Mhof

      I certainly would enjoy such kind of ad-fights in Zim, we’re getting there. Telecel is the centre of attention at the moment, and they can take advantage of this. Does Telecel need to respond? Yes! but not in the form of a ‘press statement’ or other ‘formal’ release, they need to do another campaign, if I were Head of Marketing at Telecel I would run an ad campaign saying something like “We began by TELLING you to TELL someone, and thanks to that, now everyBUDDIE and everyONE want to tell everyone else to TELL everyONE”

      1. Raymond Swart

        Excellent campaign suggestion Mhof…

      2. tsano

        ShutUp and Take my money Mhofu!
        “We began by TELLING you to TELL someone, and thanks to that, now everyBUDDIE and everyONE want to tell everyone else to TELL everyONE” Like IT!

        if i worked at Telecel i would TellSomeOne to give you a job!

        1. Mhof

          Thank you tsano, when you #findsomeone please #tellsomeone to hire me! I’m a marketer by education and profession!

      3. Optimus Prime

        Hahah! Good one. I don’t know why people are so ‘conservative’ witht heir marketing here.
        The fact that TechZim has to make a meal of this tells a lot about how bland our marketing here in Zim is.
        Anyone saw the Benz vs Jaguar chicken ads? Look them up on YouTube. I guess such marketing, in which humour is used to take digs at rivals, would be frowned upon in Zim.

  3. tj

    Telecel ndoyakambotanga kuti “TellSomeBuddie” saka I think for Econet its just pay back time

    1. Optimus Prime

      Yeah, I guess TechZim missed that entire #TellSomeBuddie campaign by Telecel on twitter. I thought Telecel were rather witty with that. And there was a few tweets by Telecel also taking a stab at Econet lingo like “inspired” and “another first”.
      All fair game really.

    2. SHHHHH

      I think its a fair game……Telecel started all this—-Tell your buddie etc its a fair game

  4. mellisa

    fair game, hapana nyaya apa, don’t play with the big boys if u cannot bear a little spankin

  5. mhofu

    exactly wat i was going to say @tj, telecel started all this, and its really nthng to complain about, besides they dd nt patent the phrase #tellsomeone.
    but i have seen a trend on techzim, as a mere observer i have seen Techzim siding soo much with telecel and taking a dig at econet at every turn. i feel they are biased towards The red and against the blue….jus my feeling.

  6. Arsene Wenger

    Ma Buddie apererwa nema zano! inga ndivo vanombozviti vanemarizhinji wani. this is street marketing. tiitireiwo ma serious

  7. roja

    Isn’t Red also an econet color. The writer made it look as though it isn’t.

    1. Mhof

      Yes red is an econet colour, but their dominant colour is blue, if you look at most ‘Buddie’ adverts. In this one, they made it predominantly RED, almost styling their ad like Telecel. Remember Econet once did a ‘Red Alert’ campaign taking a jab at Telecel’s ‘RED’ packages??

  8. Anonymous

    If I was Telecel I would not be complaining at all. It just simply shows that you are real competition. Keep it up and keep the heat coming!

  9. TSA – The Serial Analyst

    I think Big Bro Econet is simply determined to annihilate Telecel’s ad campaign by neutralising the ‘ownership’ of the #Tellsomeone brand. Soon it wont be related to Telecel only and Econet may be all set to introduce its own ad campaign. This is business….

  10. Anonymous

    Aha! Goliath shaking at David and his little sling? Econet need to focus on getting their act together and start delivering on well thought out product and customer service-no amount of witty or not so witty ad campaigns will make up for failure on the most critical aspects. And the reason that consumers #telleveryone is because there is something to TELL. Their ads right now just smack of desperation, a failure to re-invent themselves and obvious reactionary rather than offensive marketing- a realisation perhaps that sh.. just got real and “TELE-communication” is no longer Goliath’s preserve! Sadly all they’ve have managed to do with the whole ‘#telleveryone is to spark more interest in Telecel at great expense to themselves I might add – we are all wondering why Goliath is shaking in his boots. As for NetOne-well, lets just leave em and their booths for another lifetime…

  11. Anonymous

    These are signs of lack of creativity from both netone and econet….seriously, its wrong n telecel should respond and i would suggest they look a bit closer to the Competition Act and read further about negative forms of comparative advertising