Background and objective
2013 was perhaps the most volatile period in Bangladesh’s 41-year history. Unresolved issues from the 1971 war of independence dominated the national consciousness and led to divisions across religious and political fault lines. The violence and strife pushed Bangladesh to the verge of a civil war. With people dying almost every day, there were very few demonstrations of national unity to defuse the situation.
Robi Axiata, a major telecommunications company, has the brand idea 'Ignite the power within'. The company believed this idea could help unite the nation if expressed in a powerful way.
At the same time, although Robi enjoyed a strong relationship with 30 per cent of Bangladesh’s population, it wanted to improve its emotional affinity with the remaining 70 per cent, for whom the brand was little more than a trademark.
The brand decided on an attempt to beat Pakistan’s existing Guinness world record for the world's largest human flag (a flag formed by people holding placards). What’s more, the brand sought to break the record on 16 December, the country's independence war Victory Day.
To do so, Robi needed to persuade more than 25,000 people to come to a single location in a climate of near civil war.
As the flag event was designed to dramatically enhance emotional feelings towards Robi, the brand positioned the campaign with the strategy 'When we unite, Bangladesh shines'.
Robi formed a strategic alliance with the Bangladesh Army to provide a secure location and safety for the event participants and held a joint press conference with the army to announce the event and its intent.
Robi exerted its media buying power with the ambition to get six channels to cover the event live and four newspapers to feature the news.
The brand also created a musical anthem featuring the top 10 Bangladeshi music stars. “Raise the flag” became a call to action and enjoyed airplay on national TV, social media and radio in the days leading up to the event.
The brand created 20 10-second promo ads featuring prominent national celebrities and people from all walks of life, and aired these in a full burst delivering more than 600 spots per day. In print, a three-phased approach kept that audience updated throughout the course of the event. Radio DJs also endorsed the event.
In social media, the brand generated buzz thorugh the creation of the largest ever digital flag, created through the clicks of people landing on a webpage for the event.
Outdoor advertising also helped communicate the call-to-action thanks to placements in prestigious sites and creative that featured bold images of human faces, including soldiers from the Bangladesh Army painted with Bangladesh’s red and green national colours.
By rehearsal day, eight TV channels and six newspapers showed up, creating huge PR.
The event went off successfully, with 27,117 participants holding placards to create the human flag. The feat became an official Guinness World Record in January 2014.
The occasion became the most-watched event in Bangladesh history, as 20 out of 23 TV stations showed it live. Every national and regional newspaper had the Bangladesh human flag on its front page. The official photo become the most viewed image in Bangladesh’s internet history and is now considered one of Bangladesh’s most iconic photographic images. The music anthem was aired live during mass TV coverage and also subsequently became one of the most viral Facebook videos in Bangladesh history.
As for brand affinity, spontaneous recall that Robi initiated the event measured 98 per cent, and 82 per cent of respondents considered Robi to be very trustworthy.
The event also had an immediate impact on sales. Two out of three users of competitor SIMs said they would buy a Robi SIM in the very near future. Static weekly SIM sales immediately increased by 48 per cent in the following weeks.
The event cost Robi US$1 million and generated nearly US$6 million in earned media and PR coverage.
The brand followed up the event with three significant brand promotions depicting the national human flag image, each of which significantly overshot business targets.
Robi Axiata Bangladesh
Executive Vice President, Brand & Media: Toffael Rashid
Vice President: Brand, Ashraf Khandahar
Vice President: Media, Rohith Hettiaratchi
Vice President: Buying, Zahed Hossain
General Manager, Brand Activation: Yasser Noor
General Manager, Brand Campaigns: Masadul Rintu
General Manager, Social Media: Imrul Karim
General Manager, Media: Gazi Emran
Major General: Hasan Sarwardy
Brigadier General: Saiful Abedin
Project Director: Shams Imran
AdComm Lowe Bangladesh
Managing Director: Farhan Choudhary
Business Director: Anwarul Kadir
Executive Creative Director: Taufique Mahmud
Creative Director: Saiful Azam Mukul
Account Manager: Nafeezul Tamal