Big ISP marketing and brand battle in South Africa

The latest Google Trends data shows that Mweb is losing brand awareness and that Afrihost, Webafrica, and Axxess are doing well.

Google Trends provides access to a largely unfiltered sample of actual search requests made to Google. This data can be requested for a specific country.

It provides a window into what people are searching for and the trend of whether a company’s search activity is increasing or decreasing.

Internet Solutions (IS) provides a good example of how a company’s brand can disappear without good marketing and awareness.

Internet Solutions was a prominent player in South Africa’s business and consumer broadband market.

As one of the first commercial Internet service providers in South Africa with years of good marketing, it enjoyed strong brand awareness.

However, IS changed its marketing strategy in 2011 which accompanied a strategic shift at the company.

The results were telling. The brand started to suffer, and search traffic for “Internet Solutions” declined.

There was a downward spiral, and in 2020, Dimension Data announced that Internet Solutions would be absorbed into its brand.

This means Internet Solutions, one of the most recognisable brands in South Africa’s ISP market, disappeared.

Although it was sad to many industry players who fondly remembered the company, its brand was no longer the powerhouse from the nineties and 2000s.

The Google Trends data for Internet Solutions show the decline of the brand over the last fifteen years.

Seach activity around Internet Solutions peaked in October 2006. It has plummeted since then and is at around 2% of what it used to be at its peak.

ISP marketing and brand battle

There is a marketing and brand battle in South Africa’s ISP market, and Afrihost, Webafrica, and Axxess are winning the war.

Between 2010 and 2015, ISPs enjoyed exceptional organic exposure because of the broadband revolution which swept South Africa.

During this period, numerous affordable uncapped ADSL products were launched, and Vumatel, Openserve, and other network operators started to roll out fibre-to-the-home.

Consumers were actively searching for new broadband products, and there was a boom in the ISP market.

Since then, the hype has dissipated, and broadband access has become just another service to buy for your home or business.

This means Internet service providers without a strong marketing strategy were exposed. Put simply, when the broadband tide went out, it showed who had been swimming naked.

ISPs without a strong marketing and brand strategy started to see a decline in interest in their products.

This raises the question of which ISPs have been able to maintain their brand awareness, and which ones were caught swimming naked.


Mweb

Seach activity around Webafrica peaked in March 2011. It has plummeted since then and is at around 15% of what it used to be at its peak.

Mweb was one of the ISPs which benefitted from the hype around uncapped ADSL. However, its brand has suffered since then and is struggling to remain relevant.


Afrihost

Seach activity around Afrihost peaked in September 2013, after which it maintained good interest from the public.

Afrihost has a good marketing strategy and maintained strong brand awareness after the hype around broadband died down.


Webafrica

Seach activity around Webafrica peaked in February 2023. It remains very relevant in searches to this day.

Webafrica is unique in that its peak search activity was not during the period when uncapped ADSL and fibre were the talk of the town.


Axxess

Axxess had a spike in activity in 2010, which peaked in October 2010. Outside of this spike, it maintained good interest from the public.

Axxess’ strong online marketing strategy ensured that it remained relevant to South African consumers over two decades.


 

Bitco

Seach activity around Bitco peaked in March 2015. It has plummeted since then and is at around 16% of what it used to be at its peak.

Bitco changed its marketing strategy to focus on billboards and cut online advertising. It was a blow to the company, as shown in the chart below.


Rain

Seach activity around Rain peaked at launch in June 2018. It has plummeted since then and is at around 6% of what it used to be at its peak.

Rain famously claimed that it did not spend any money on marketing when it launched and enjoyed exceptional free exposure.

However, the hype lasted only that long. It has been caught swimming naked – without a good marketing strategy to maintain its relevance in the market.


All together now

The chart below shows how Mweb’s brand awareness dwindled and that Afrihost, Webafrica, and Axxess are closing the gap.


 

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Big ISP marketing and brand battle in South Africa