Koodo: Selling A Belief System

Sustained Success (GOLD)

Client Credits: Koodo Mobile
Chief Koodo Officer: Kevin Banderk
VP, Marketing Communications: Lise Doucet
Manager, Marketing Communications : Dragana Simao
Manager, Digital Marketing Communications: Nathan Roth
Directrice générale, communications et marketing: Jennifer Robertson

Agency Credits: TAXI Canada Ltd.
Chief Creative Director: Steve Mykolyn
Executive Creative Director: Lance Martin
French Creative Directors: Patrick Chaubet, Alex Gadois
Design Creative Director: Dave Watson
Art Directors: Jeff MacEachern, Craig Ferguson, Mike Lee, Jordan Dunlop, Adam Thur, Lance Vinning
Art Directors: Troy McGuinness, Leo Tsalkos, Amber Strahl, Nuno Ferreira, Johnnie Ingram
Art Directors: Maya Boriskina, Virginia Magaletta, Shahin Edalati, Alison Garnett, Michael Morton
Art Directors: Mike Blanch, Peter Gomes
Writers: Mike Blackmore, Tal Wagman, Alexis Bronstorph, Marko Pandza, Rica Eckersley, Irfan Khan
Writers: Jess Willis, Jordan Doucette, Alex Furrer, Ryan Grossman, Simon Gouache, Alanna Nathanson
Writers: Josianne Cossette, Tanya Henri, Etienne Theberge, Emelie Larocque
Designers: Mike Blain, Kammy Singh, Tyler Smith, Leo Tsalkos
Broadcast Producers: Jennifer Cursio, Ben Sharpe, Brie Gowans, Eugene Marchio, Anick Rozon
Print Producers: Tara Greguric, Charlene Leong, Jen Shapiro, Estella Tolentino
Mac Artists: Brian Coughlin, Dave Kinsella, Lorin Altomonte, Pam Cohen, Dayle Sheward
Mac Artists: Susan Carswell, Dwayne-Mark Aranha, Nige Harvey
Retouchers: Alex Chung, Andrew O'Driscoll, Nabil Elsaadi, Stephen Pryce, Whitney Taylor
Interactive Producers: Kevin Saffer, Gaetano Carpino, Patrick Elia, Jennifer Simpson, Joyce King
Interactive Producers: Hanna Bratt, Tasha Dean, Jennifer Law, David Isaac
Interactive Programmers: Matt Burtch, Bob Blevins, Ryan Johnson, Carson Shold, Jeff Vermeersch
Digital Strategists: Cory Pelletier, Nicole Polivka, Zach Klein
Group Account Directors: Caleb Goodman, Natalie Calderon
Account Directors: Daniel Shearer, Pascale St-Amand
Account Managers: Katie Trainor, Steve Waugh, Sherrie Reynolds, Kirstin Bojanowski, Krista Cressman
Account Managers: Shelly Ong, Kimberley French, Julie MacGregor, Carole Nantel, Justine Trudeau
Media Agencies: Media Experts, Cossette Media
Media Planners: Richard Ivey, Flavia D'Orazio, Tracy Ibsen, Giosi Nizzola, Karel Wegert
Media Planners: Patricia Ruffolo, Nick Rossignol, Pina Cuffar, Lauren Smith, Gabriel McCrae
Media Planners: Charlaine St-Amand, Dustin Turner, Ryan Langsford
Production Houses: BENT Image Lab, Avion Films, HeadGear Animation, School Editing, RightSleeve


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):March 2008–March 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: March 2008
Base Period as a Benchmark: N/A (brand launch)

a) Overall Assessment

To win in the fast-moving, ever-changing business of telecom, you have to continuously adapt and evolve – exactly what Koodo has done year over year. Since the brand’s launch in 2008, it has gone from zero to thorn-in-the-side of all other providers overnight, with five successive years of growth. 

A little more than a decade after the wide-scale launch of mobile phones in the consumer market, the landscape had come to be dominated by three major national players. As the appetite for wireless grew at a pace beyond anyone’s expectations, carriers responded by escalating their offerings, both in terms of evolving technological capabilities and ever-expanding features.

Against this backdrop, we saw the opportunity to carve out a unique position for the brand now known as Koodo. The focus for most of the existing wireless brands on complicated plans and restrictive contracts meant that consumers looking for basic service were being overlooked. Research showed that while some were after the latest devices and features, a large group of Canadians longed for a fair approach to mobility on their terms.

Koodo entered the scene in 2008 in a big way, revolutionizing the category with industry firsts and redefining value for Canadians. But it wasn’t long until new value players emerged, looking for a piece of the action. In the age of austerity, value became more important than ever. The big guys were trying to find unique ways to define value, while the value players scooped up the bottom-feeders by offering the basics at new lows. Competitive advantage couldn’t hinge on product or price alone, as former game changers like the Tab became ubiquitous, and the category became saturated with offers.

Despite an increasingly competitive marketplace full of new competitors nipping at its heels, Koodo has done what many have failed to do. With an unwavering commitment to our brand promise, a distinctive visual style and personality, and fearlessness with regards to reinvention, we have consistently brought the brand to life in fun, surprising, and irreverent ways and have increased our brand share at a speed previously thought impossible in the industry.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Since the brand’s launch, our objectives have remained the same: to establish Koodo in the market as the leader of the value segment and to defend its position by championing the fight for today’s consumer. With this in mind, we set out to demonstrate the following:


1.     Year over year subscriber growth beginning at launch

2.     Increased distribution at retail


c) Annual Media Budget
Over $5 million

d) Geographic Area
Canada (including Quebec)

a) Analysis and Insight

Among competitors obsessed with the latest and greatest, and constantly changing prices and offers to match, we knew we couldn’t focus on product alone. To make our mark, we needed to take a different approach and develop an ownable, higher-level, consumer benefit that could act as a cornerstone as we adapted and evolved. In other words, we needed to zero in on the “so what.”

We mined research around who a more stripped-down, value-based offering would appeal to, and Generation Y (aged 21–30) emerged as the perfect target. They are at a life stage where value is key; yet their phone is their oxygen and they won’t sacrifice their lifeline simply to get a good deal. We believed this target would appreciate a no-nonsense brand, one that would help ease the overwhelming feeling of too much choice within the category.

Our “so what” came from the insight that the majority of Gen-Yers were completely dissatisfied with their mobile phone provider. Few believed there was a provider that wouldn’t take advantage of them, and with the constant barrage of offers and complicated fine print, it was impossible to figure out who had the best value. They didn’t want to work that hard or do the math; they just needed to hear loud and clear that someone had their interests in mind and understood what they were going through. What they truly craved was peace of mind, and to deliver this, we needed to sell a new belief system, a belief that mobile service should be fair and simple.

b) Communication Strategy

Building a brand that would connect with our target was key in the crowded marketplace. We needed to achieve best-in-class brand awareness, with the hallmark of this success being true consumer engagement. Critical to our success would be our ability to evolve and adapt over time to stay relevant, while staying true to our core principles.

Be straightforward

Knowing our target felt overwhelmed by so much choice and complicated fine print, we knew they’d appreciate the straight goods. Clear, honest, and remarkably consistent messaging was required across every single touch point, from packaging to TV spots to billboards. We wanted to build a straightforward brand identity that consumers could depend on.

Be fun

We believed that to truly connect with our Gen-Y target, we couldn’t always be selling to them. They wanted a relationship, and with a brand who got them. To turn the brand and messaging into something of interest, we would need to appeal to their irreverent attitude, with the ultimate goal of creating new cultural currency.

Be ballsy

With everyone fighting for our target’s attention, only high-potency creative would break through the clutter. We’d need to be disciplined and focus our messaging around our core target, rather than trying to be all things to all people. We’d have to be brave to get recognized – in our tone of voice, our design choices, the mediums we chose to play in, and in shaking things up to avoid getting stale.

a) Media Used

TV, radio, outdoor, newspaper, in-store, digital, and social have been our go-to media. The communications effort has evolved through four major phases over the past five years: building our design vocabulary; the launch of Fat-Free Mobility; the Language of Savings; and El Tabador, the Consumer Champion.

b) Creative Discussion

Building Our Design Vocabulary

The unusual name “Koodo,” an intriguing empty vessel that allowed us to create our own meaning from day one, first blanketed Canadian cities in early 2008. 

To win a special place in the minds and hearts of our Gen-Y target, we created a visual vocabulary centered on eye-catching colours, bold headline treatments, and our staple nutrition label, all cues to our brand pillars of fairness and simplicity. Still in use five years later, the label has been a fundamental thread across all campaigns and allows us to show our target exactly what they are and aren’t getting (Exhibit 1).



Year 1 Launch: Fat-Free Mobility

Recognizing Gen Y’s appreciation for irreverence, we decided to have fun with our simplified offering by tying the Koodo wireless experience to the health and workout craze of the 1980s and 1990s. This was the perfect platform to call out the “fatty fees” of other carriers while proclaiming that Koodo was “suitable for cost-reduced diets.” Fat-free mobility had arrived.  

Two weeks before launch, we began a teaser campaign to seed our vibrant colours, retro feel, and of course, our unusual name. We wrapped trees and billboards in headbands with simply “Koodo” featured on each. We ran three five-second TV spots to introduce the name and further tease the target on what was to come (Exhibit 2).


On March 31, 2008, the Koodo-cisers hit the market nationally and took over the streets of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and Montréal. Given our target were frequent transit users, we provided eye candy for riders with a mix of dominations, street teams, and stunts (Exhibit 3).


With the buzz now alive, we created a 60-second spoof TV infomercial to irreverently showcase our offering (Exhibit 4).


Year 2: Language of Savings

After the successful launch of fat-free mobility, we made a conscious choice to evolve our campaign for year two in order to stay fresh and current. With competition in the value-segment increasing, we needed to assert ourselves as the leader by celebrating the fundamentals that Koodo first introduced in a cool and energetic way. So we invented a whole new language, a language of savings, to help people rethink the basics.

We said “no to bigbillification” using new brand-specific words to explain our fair and simple offering, featured within the bold headline treatment and playful colours established in year one. The larger-than-life smiles of our characters showed the true excitement of customers finally paying only for what they really needed. From a “system fee-ectomy” to “unlimited textasy,” we broke through the clutter with a new take on value messaging so overused in the industry (Exhibit 5).



Come the holiday season, the campaign evolved to feature a witty collection of gingerbread characters (Exhibit 6).


And with the proliferation of YouTube, we saw the potential to further engage users online with an interactive extension. Inspired by the classic “choose your own adventure” reminiscent of Gen-Y’s earlier years, we launched the cheeky “Sugar Streak” YouTube game that challenged users to catch the gingerbread man (Exhibit 7).


In the first week alone, the video gained 500,000 views and became the #1 YouTube video in Canada. It continued on to boast over 1.5 million YouTube views.

Year 3 and Beyond: El Tabador, The Consumer’s Champion

By the end of 2009, many of the features that made up our initial core offering had been matched. It was time to speak beyond the basics and create an icon to represent our ongoing fight to bring Canadians fair and simple mobility. To find an embodiment of what the brand had stood for since the beginning, we looked to Koodo’s most differentiating feature – the Tab.

The four-inch-tall animated luchador named El Tabador stepped in the ring in early 2010. Known for high-flying maneuvers and pinning opponents to the mat, this spandex-loving character was the perfect mascot to describe the battleground of the value-based telco industry. His quirky look and tongue-in-cheek voice made for a seamless integration into the established brand visual style and personality.

In March 2010, a 30-second launch spot aired on national television and showed El Tabador saying adios to his small Latino village to fulfill his destiny of saving customers from mobile injustices (Exhibit 8).


Additional cinema, TV, and outdoor advertising worked to establish El Tabador’s commitment to the fight for Canadians (Exhibit 9).



Using new technology, we launched an interactive YouTube game called “Get in the Ring,” which allowed visitors to take the point of view of El Tabador and wrestle against his opponent Bloatimus Contractimus (Exhibit 10).


We also developed an online mockumentary called Man Behind the Mask, with well-known wrestling icon Bret “The Hitman” Hart recounting his memories of a past encounter with El Tabador (Exhibit 11).


We even created mini muchacho action figures, literally putting El Tabador into the hands of our target and creating a seamless connection between our mass communications and the retail environment. The figurines were free with the purchase of any Koodo phone or available for $8 online and in-store. All sale proceeds, totalling $75,000, were donated to Food Banks Canada (Exhibit 12).


In 2012 we launched a second wave of advertising featuring El Tabador, turning our attention to reinforcing Koodo as a dependable carrier (Exhibit 13 and 14).


c) Media Discussion

Unlike our competitors, we’d never have the budget to blanket the country with messaging. In order to stand out with our target, we focused our media attention on their key day-to-day surroundings: where they live, work, and play. We were able to amplify the message and achieve a domination effect disproportionate to our spend, making every dollar work twice as hard. 

a) Sales/Share Results

Koodo had the most successful postpaid wireless launch in Canadian history and the momentum has continued for five years since. Despite an increasingly competitive environment and the onslaught of new choices in the market, we have seen double-digit growth in our subscriber base year over year.


Total Koodo Subscribers


Fiscal End







% Growth vs.

Previous Year


+ 98%

+ 41%

+ 38%

+ 19%

+ 18%

Following the brand’s initial 2008 launch, Koodo became the #1 postpaid provider at Future Shop, Best Buy, Walmart, and London Drugs. This was an unprecedented achievement by any brand in the Canadian marketplace, let alone a new one up against multiple established, big-budget marketers. Koodo has continued to perform extremely well in this critical sales channel, receiving numerous accolades from top retailers. In 2010, Koodo was named Vendor of the Year by Future Shop and Electronics Vendor of the Year by London Drugs, both distinctions a testament to Koodo’s simple offering and its ability to help grow its partners’ profitability. Koodo has maintained its #1 position well into 2013 and regularly remains the top wireless vendor with each of its major national retail partners.

Clearly Koodo has proven itself as a national wireless powerhouse that’s here to stay.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

The relationship between our advertising and our results is simple: Koodo didn’t exist on March 16, 2008; on March 17, Koodo was born, and since that day, it has exceeded multiple records previously set in the Canadian marketplace.

Within days of the launch of the Koodo brand, our Gen-Y target had given us their ultimate stamp of approval: they were appropriating Koodo for themselves. From user-generated spoofs of our ads to Koodo-based theme parties being thrown across the country, it was clear that we’d hit the sweet spot between target, insight, and creative expression. By March 30, 2010, our YouTube channel had already become the #1 most-subscribed-to sponsored channel in Canada. And when El Tabador was introduced, unprompted users began creating their own content to show their love, including video parodies of El Tabador commercials and one fan who submitted a photo of his new El Tabador tattoo. By March 2012, the Koodo Facebook page had become the fastest-growing fan page of any mobile company in Canada (Exhibit 15).


Koodo’s brand awareness scores after its initial launch were remarkable, with 89% of our target audience having heard the name after the first year alone. At the end of 2010, Koodo became the youngest brand ever to be named Brand of Year by Strategy magazine. Ongoing ad tracking has shown consistent increases in both awareness and purchase consideration, directly correlated to our in-market performance. Brand awareness is now at 99% with our target audience and 96% among the mass population, overreaching all targets.

The success of Koodo is inextricably linked to the brand’s communications effort. Put simply, consumers wouldn’t have known about it, and certainly wouldn’t have engaged with the brand to the degree they did, had it not resonated to the degree it did.

Over the past five years, we’ve faced the battlefield of relentless price and offer matching, and the potentially crippling entrance of numerous new value providers. It has been our ability to adapt, learn, and evolve while staying true to our belief system that has enabled Koodo to stay relevant and continue to build momentum year over year, leading the fight for fair and simple mobility in the Canadian wireless industry.   

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

The following factors can not only be ruled out but also, in many cases, be considered to have left Koodo at a relative disadvantage compared to the competition: 


Spending Levels – Koodo’s media budgets and corresponding share of voice were much smaller than that of the competition, especially compared to the major carriers.


Since Koodo’s initial launch, many new value entrants have entered the category and are operating under similar business models. Some of these carriers are offering more for less, therefore ruling out pricing as an influencing factor.

Distribution Changes:

While Koodo’s retail presence has grown since the brand first launched, overall distribution is still low compared to other major wireless carriers.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

The wireless category is extremely competitive and aggressive promotional activity is the norm.

Other Potential Causes:

Product and service offerings can also be ruled out as an influencing factor. Many still view Koodo’s lineup of handsets as less sophisticated than that of the competition (the iPhone, for example, was only available to Koodo customers two years after its initial launch, a huge disadvantage compared to other major carriers).