Cell C's new clothes - TechCentral

Cell C’s new clothes

Cell C has unveiled new branding

Cell C is like a new company. In a presentation to media on Wednesday morning, CEO Lars Reichelt set out a radical new strategy and unveiled a revitalised brand image for the mobile operator.

It may still be SA’s smallest cellular network by market share — Telkom hasn’t launched its mobile business yet — but under Reichelt, who was appointed to the job last year, Cell C is fast becoming the market’s feistiest player.

His presentation lasted little more than an hour, including question-and-answer time, yet the changes Reichelt’s proposing will remake the mobile phone operator and give its bigger rivals a headache.

Key to the changes has been a restructuring of the company’s debt. Shareholders have converted billions of rand in loans into equity and Reichelt says the company is at an advanced stage of restructuring its bonds to reduce the crippling interest payments it’s been forking over on a regular basis.

Discussions with banks should be concluded soon, he says. “Until we are over that hump, Cell C is still being fed by its shareholders,” he says. Saudi Oger, a Middle Eastern group, controls the company, with minority local shareholding from CellSAf. “It’s taking a little longer than expected but that’s the way banks work.”

There are two main pillars to Cell C’s reinvention.

The first involves the construction of an advanced third-generation (3G) mobile network capable of download speeds of up to 21Mbit/s.

Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt

Cell C’s big advantage over larger rivals MTN and Vodacom is that its network will use the 900MHz band, which requires it to construct fewer towers outside the cities, saving money. It also provides better in-building coverage.

The other big pillar of the strategy involves a rethink of the company’s branding and marketing.

Reichelt says Cell C’s old brand identity had become “long in the tooth”. Active customer engagement will form a cornerstone of the new Cell C brand.

Gone is the “For Yourself” tagline, and in its place is “The Power is in Your Hands”.

“We have recognised the flaws of our sector and ourselves, and we hope to use this campaign as a way to change that,” he says.

The company has hired top SA comedian Trevor Noah, who regularly complains about the mobile operators on stage, as its new “consumer experience officer”.

Cell C kicked off its new marketing campaign with a full-page advertisement in Sunday newspapers responding to a YouTube video posted by Noah.

Watch Trevor Noah’s sketch on YouTube:

Noah will be a go-between, providing feedback from Cell C customers to the company’s management team. The operator has set up a new website to facilitate interaction with its customers. It’s encouraging consumers to tell it where it’s failing them.

“We know that we have to improve, and we are inviting the consumer to participate in that change,” says Reichelt.

Marketing guru Chris Moerdyk describes Cell C’s new campaign as “outstanding”. However, he says time will tell whether the company is serious about the strategy.

“We’ll have to see how genuine they are in terms of taking advice from their customers,” he says.

According to Moerdyk, the mobile operators — and Cell C in particular — have lost credibility in the eyes of consumers. “When Cell C came into the market, it was supposed to provide big competition to the other players, but this never materialised.”

He says the best way the mobile operators can market themselves is by cutting prices. “One thing consumers are aware of is the high prices of cellphone calls,” he says.

Moerdyk says if Cell C’s campaign truly tackles the issues raised by consumers, it could be successful. “But at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding,” he says.  — Duncan McLeod and Candice Jones, TechCentral


  1. Scarlet Pimpernel on

    Well, that’s what I would have done, re-branded and re-launched. Let’s now see if the products are better …

  2. Bold move for by Mr. Reichelt, rebranding as well as launching a new campaign meanwhile the company is surviving through shareholders money. I hope they have invested in fully functional call service centers

  3. “The company has hired top SA comedian Trevor Noah, who regularly complains about the mobile operators on stage”

    Wrong. Your article leaves the impression that Noah’s YouTube video was done independently when in fact the video was *part* of the marketing campaign. The video was a publicity stunt authorised by Cell C beforehand. Classic example of ‘astroturfing’.

    Noah was their puppet from the start. Yes, very well-orchestrated campaign but not truthful either. Some consumers may frown at this since the joke was on us.
    Even though it’s good to see Cell C trying to compete aggressively, several sites have highlighted the deception of this campaign.

  4. Lars is in the wrong country, dictating the incorrect marketing tactics, and rebranding a brand that has yet to be entrenched in the south african consumers minds. Trevor Noah is overexposed in SA media right now, and so is a temporary solution to a problem that requires long term strategies. The use of the copyright symbol is the most unoriginal move and they are going to fall flat on their faces, this is branding suicide.

  5. Would love to know what illiterate at the trademark office allowed CellC to trademark the copyright symbol ©. That is like allowing someone to trademark the @ sign.
    I for one will not be sending them a cheque when I use the © symbol.

  6. Interesting that no one is commenting about what Cell C is promising to South Africans which is great coverage, great customer service and brilliant billing system. Can Noah`s involvement with Cell C be detrimental to the consumers? Lets see what Cell C is going to do or is doing differently from before… this is SA, which is a place of Possibilities

  7. So, in the words of the old Cell C payoff line, I decided to see for myself. And this is what Trevor has to say on asktrevor.o.za: “So, how did I get to be CEO of Cell C? Well, it’s a bit of a story but here goes. A couple weeks ago I said some things about Cell C that Cell C weren’t too happy about. The truth hurts, what can I say? Take a look, you’ll see what I mean.
    What happened next was a bit of a whirlwind really. Basically, the CEO of Cell C, Lars Reichelt, decided to send me a letter… in the Sunday Times. Subtle. In it he talked about how they’re changing, how they’re building the best network in the Southern Hemishpere. How things really are going to be different.
    Yeah right.”
    I cannot believe that the bright sparks behind this campaign could be so tone deaf as to write drivel like that when we know that the so-called “whirlwind” has been part of the plan for months. (And that they don’t employ a proofreader.)

  8. # Jo – @ sign is being used by @home currently so this cannot be a material debating point.
    # Sarah I like your analysis and honesty about your feelings and I honestly think that you are in the same level of thinking as Cell C. I think Cell C is bringing to all South Africans attention that Cellular is BAD and we need to complain, is that not great? Lars has been bold enough by facing critical SA citizens with this way of commuicating knowing that many people will look at this with great suspicion. What the worst thing that can happen because of this Trevor story? Lets imagine if Cell C does not live up to the promise = company could loose credibility and customers as well, jobs might be lost, company could close, Cell C gone. NOW lets imagine if Cell C can achieve all the promises they are making to YOU as SA citizens. The best thing here is that Cell C are investing in SA to better the livelihood of many if this calm you down. I take you point of siiting and waiting to see…Lets watch Cell C like hawks and pray that it delivers or else they are OUT.

  9. Why does Cell C brand its HSPA+ 3G network as “4Gs”? To MISLEAD the public into believeing it’s a 4G network when it isn’t. So much for honesty.

  10. Today it was reported that the Registrar of Trademarks rejected Cell C’s logo as well. You can’t use the copyright symbol in your logo.

  11. I wonder who owns this copyright logo? is the transgression against copyright company? maybe I am naive…Cell C gave the name to its network technology as 4Gs not merely 4G because the technical parameters for 4th generation have not been clearly defined. My understanding is that the network offers way better speed than 3G so it cannot be called as such.

    i wonder what other things is Cell c promising apart from the network and if they will live up to the promise? i am watching are you?

  12. Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works” and includes such things as literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual creations, both published and unpublished. Copyright does not protect ideas. It only protects the specific and original expression of the idea. the only way to show its copyright you include the sign and the date.

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