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Ready or not, here it comes: Vodafone's Matt Williams on what the future might hold

With Blade Runner 2049 currently in cinemas winning rave reviews, we have yet another vision of the dystopian impact technology will have in the future. As critically acclaimed as the film might be, it’s nothing new to see technology pessimistically cast as the villain in pop culture. But Vodafone's global rebrand has adopted a slightly more positive view on what the future might hold. 

Alongside an update to its brand strategy and visual identity, the telco has replaced its eight-year-old ‘Power to you’ slogan with ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’

To announce the change, Vodafone has rolled out a campaign across 36 international markets that tells the evolving story of how the word ‘hello’ has been communicated over the decades.

The first words in the local version of the ad are ‘kia ora’ and they coincide with a scene of a hongi between a man and woman.

The ad also features a cameo by the lovable porcine protagonist Piggy-Sue, who clearly still has a role to play as the brand moves forward.

Vodafone New Zealand’s consumer director Matt Williams says it was imperative to localise the campaign so that it would resonate with New Zealanders.

While it isn’t unusual for brands to change their slogans every few years, Williams says this strategic shift was important at this stage given the impact technology is set to have in the next few years.

“We are on the cusp of a big shift, and this is something we really want to be part of,” Williams says.

He explains that technology that might seem niche at the moment will quickly have a significant transformative impact on the world in coming years.

This prediction is in line with those made by numerous futurists commenting on the current state of technological progression. Google director of engineering Ray Kurzweil attributes the rapid acceleration of change to the Law of Accelerating Returns, which suggests that technology is advancing at an exponential rate.

“It is not the case that we will experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century,” he wrote in an essay recently quoted in PHD’s book Merge, “rather, we will witness on the order of twenty thousand years of progress.”

What this means, according to the authors of the book, is that exponential growth will see advancements over the next 20 years multiply so quickly that they will dwarf the developments of the entire 20th century.

In this sense, Vodafone’s rebrand is something of an anticipatory move. It’s an attempt by the organisation to stay in tune with the changing world.

Williams says you just need to look back over the last 25 years to see how quickly things are changing.

“When I grew up there was no such thing as a smartphone, and now my kids are growing up in a completely connected world. For them, it’s just natural.”

He expects things to change even more rapidly over the next five to ten years, in ways that are difficult to imagine today.

Beyond the ad and new look, Williams says the importance of technology has become a major internal focus for the telco (its Vodafone xone accelerator programme aims to bring some of the best external ideas into the company). 

By way of example, he points to job ads that now call on young graduates to apply “for a job that doesn’t yet exist”.

The point here is that those within the organisation should be thinking about where the world is moving and contribute toward getting the company there.

As part of this tech push, Williams says Vodafone will be making an announcement in coming weeks about two or three innovation projects that the company is helping to bring to life. 

Here’s to hoping that the optimism that underpins these projects helps to steer us away from a future that sees Ryan Gosling running around as a troubled replicant

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