Djuice – many feel a sense of nostalgia upon hearing that name. Djuice was all about friends chatting and singing. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to label Djuice as Bangladesh’s first social media platform. It was introduced in 2005 as a sub-brand of Grameenphone and played a role in forging numerous friendships while also witnessing some relationships unravel. Djuice swiftly became the fastest-growing and most beloved telecom brand in Bangladesh, ushering in a significant generational transformation.
This transformation was so profound that it led to the coining of the term ‘Djuice Generation’ to describe this era. However, despite its meteoric rise and immense popularity, Djuice quietly ceased operations after 2012.
Building An Iconic Brand
Bangladesh’s leading mobile operator, Grameenphone, is originally a subsidiary of the Norwegian state-owned telecom company Telenor. Around the year 2000, the company introduced a brand focusing on internet-based services, specifically targeting the youth in Europe. This brand was named Digital Juice or Djuice and gained immense popularity among the young population in European countries where Telenor operated. Building on this success in Europe, Telenor made plans to extend the Djuice brand to the Asian region, leading Grameenphone to introduce it in Bangladesh as a subsidiary of Telenor.
As the brand primarily aimed to attract the younger generation of the country, Grameenphone entrusted their youthful team with the responsibility of launching the Djuice brand. They collaborated with Bitopi, one of the country’s most renowned advertising agencies, to handle the marketing and advertising efforts for this new brand. The Djuice team, together with Bitopi, initiated planning and created various marketing and communication materials. These materials were used to organize a Focus Group Discussion, which primarily included Djuice’s target customers, such as college and university students, and young workers. Through this discussion, the team came to the realization that their initial ideas were entirely off the mark. The behavior, language, and tone of the focus group participants were vastly different from the team’s initial plans. Consequently, the Djuice team and Bitopi compiled a research report, which they submitted to Grameenphone. This report became the foundation for the development of a new marketing and communication strategy.
Bitopi aimed to represent the youth culture of the country during that era through Djuice’s advertisements. Djuice’s main customer base comprised college and university students who used informal and unpolished street language. However, the country’s television commercials primarily employed formal language. These commercials delivered various messages about the product to increase awareness. Bitopi, on the other hand, adopted a slightly unconventional approach for Djuice. They designed the launch campaign to establish a direct connection with the youth without explicitly discussing the product or attempting to convey specific messages. The goal was for Djuice to appear as if it was speaking about and celebrating youth itself, facilitating a direct connection with the younger audience. Consequently, all types of marketing campaigns, including Djuice’s billboard advertisements, incorporated popular youth slang such as “fou,” “tasky,” and “complicated,” which were widely used among young people at that time. English letters were even used to write Bengali words in the advertisements, a style known as Banglish.
When Bitopi’s plan was unveiled to Grameenphone, company officials expressed concerns about potential negative consequences. However, they later fully endorsed Bitopi’s strategy. According to this new plan, the renowned TV commercial director and Ayanabaazi director, Amitabh Reza, was recruited to produce Djuice’s first TV commercial. The brand’s launch preparations were executed in a manner that defied traditional expectations in Bangladesh. Consequently, in August 2005, Djuice, one of the country’s most iconic brands, was successfully launched.
Rise Of Djuice
Directed by Amitabh Raza, Djuice’s first television commercial will be remembered as one of the most successful examples in the history of marketing and advertising in Bangladesh. The primary goal of a TV commercial (TVC) is to showcase a product, service, or brand. Typically, mobile operators’ TVCs focus on SIM cards or various offers. However, Djuice took a different approach when launching Bangladesh’s most iconic brand. Instead, they created a TVC that resembled a trendy music video, making it intriguing for viewers. This TVC aimed to connect with the youth through themes of friendship, chats, and music, which instantly resonated with the young audience. Surprisingly, the TVC didn’t directly mention the product, and the Djuice logo only appeared at the very end. In fact, viewers couldn’t easily discern what product the ad was promoting. Djuice’s advertisement marked a cultural shift in traditional advertising and branding in the country.
Following its launch in Bangladesh, Djuice quickly became a favorite among customers. Initially, they relied on primary marketing channels such as television, newspapers, various daily, weekly, and monthly magazines, as well as billboards to promote their brand. This strategic approach rapidly gained popularity among the younger generation in the country. Affordability played a significant role in Djuice’s success, coupled with their unique marketing strategy. While other SIM companies charged call rates ranging from 4 to 7 taka per minute, Djuice offered calls for just 1.5 taka per minute. This competitive rate made it accessible for most young people, many of whom were students. Additionally, Djuice allowed users to designate multiple FnF numbers and make conference calls, further enhancing its appeal. During that time, Djuice users could purchase 100 SMS for only 5 rupees. With these advantages and affordable options, Djuice’s subscriber base grew rapidly.
Through marketing communication, Djuice did more than just mimic the youth of the country and offer affordable communication. It also innovated by introducing various services that catered to the youth. One such innovation was the customer loyalty program known as “XTRA Khatir.” Members of this loyalty program received a membership card, which they could use to enjoy discounts at select fashion stores, restaurants, sports shops, and even on music albums. This initiative fostered greater loyalty among the youth towards Djuice. Additionally, Djuice established a partnership with Star Cineplex, which was known for screening four Hollywood movies each year. Djuice users were granted priority in booking tickets for these movies for the first six days after their release. Djuice was more than just a telecom service; it had become an integral part of the youth’s lifestyle.
Since its inception, Grameenphone in Bangladesh has focused on building a robust network through advanced technology and strategic network expansion. Djuice operated using Grameenphone’s continually growing cell tower network infrastructure. This not only ensured affordability but also leveraged Grameenphone’s strong network to contribute significantly to Djuice’s growth. However, the pivotal moment came when Djuice introduced free “Djuice-to-Djuice” call rates from 10 pm to 6 am daily. Why did Grameenphone decide to allow free calling for such an extended period? The reason was twofold. Firstly, Grameenphone observed that there was minimal network activity after 10 pm, even though the cell towers had to remain operational. Therefore, they introduced this offer to utilize the otherwise idle network capacity. Secondly, there was a strategic aspect to this move, reminiscent of Nescafé’s strategy in Japan. Nescafé struggled to popularize coffee in Japan despite extensive marketing efforts after World War II. Japanese people had no childhood memories associated with coffee, as they primarily drank tea. To address this, Nescafé introduced coffee-flavored chocolates for Japanese children and promoted them. This helped create a habit of consuming coffee from a young age, turning them into Nescafé customers as they grew up. Similarly, in Bangladesh, the high mobile phone call rates discouraged people from using their phones for casual conversations. To grow as a mobile network operator, it was crucial to encourage people to talk more on the phone. Djuice’s target audience consisted of young people who frequented the streets and local shops. Social media was not yet widespread due to limited internet accessibility, and conversations often had to be cut short as night fell. Djuice introduced this offer to make unlimited late-night chats possible for the youth. This move quickly made Djuice popular among young people who enjoyed the convenience of extended conversations without incurring additional costs. Gradually, people adapted to talking for longer durations, generating more revenue for the telecom company. Djuice also played a role in transforming offline youth chats into digital conversations, making it one of the country’s first social media platforms. Additionally, Djuice became synonymous with countless stories of talking to unknown numbers, friendships being formed, and love relationships blooming. During that time, such incidents became so common that they even found their way into dramas and movies of the era.
Apart from this, various concerts were organized across the country under Djuice’s sponsorship. Even though there are concerts and music festivals in the present times, none of the excitement or enthusiasm of the young generation’s concerts, which thrived from 2005 to 2011/12, remains. Djuice not only hosted various concerts but also launched the country’s first band music show, “DRockstar,” which gave rise to popular bands like Current, Radioactive, and Power Surge. Djuice also supported the country’s underground music bands in collaboration with the leading record label G-series.
Djuice didn’t limit its promotional strategy to just band music or Western-centric culture; it actively engaged with the youth of the country. For instance, on Pahela Boishakh, Djuice attempted to sponsor the Mangal Sobhajatra, although their offer was declined. Nevertheless, the Djuice team persisted and started distributing free T-shirts and bandanas with the Djuice logo in various locations, from Dhaka University’s TSC area to Shahbagh and Ramna areas. This creative approach allowed them to gain widespread brand recognition without significant expenses. Djuice ads were everywhere, from streets and alleys to newspapers, magazines, billboards, and walls. The popularity of Djuice was so immense that the generation growing up in the first decade of the 21st century is now known as the Djuice generation.
Although today the term ‘Djuice Generation’ evokes nostalgia for many, it was originally used to describe the vibrant youth of its time. Shortly after its launch, Djuice faced criticism from those unfamiliar with its brand communication and use of so-called “street language.” Even famous individuals in the country wrote critical pieces about the young generation and Djuice in various newspapers and magazines. However, despite these criticisms, Grameenphone, as the parent company, consistently supported Djuice’s marketing endeavors. Over time, people of different ages and professions, not just the youth, started switching to Djuice due to its affordability and various benefits. It reached a point where even Grameenphone customers began transitioning to Djuice. And that’s the story of Djuice.
As quickly as Djuice gained popularity in Bangladesh, it disappeared just as fast. Djuice’s last campaign in 2012 paid tribute to National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. However, its popularity had been slowly declining long before that. This decline led to the discontinuation of all marketing and promotional activities for Djuice, along with the sale of Djuice SIM cards, without any prior notice. But why did Grameenphone, one of their most successful brands, seem so indifferent?
Although Grameenphone never officially explained the reason behind Djuice’s closure, newspapers suggested that “sustainability” played a major role. However, they didn’t elaborate on what sustainability issues actually meant.
One can speculate that since Djuice utilized Grameenphone’s resources and offered free call rates, it caused a sudden surge in activity on Grameenphone’s network. This resulted in frequent call connection issues, leaving Grameenphone customers unable to make the calls they needed. To address this, Djuice’s offer was changed from 10 pm to 6 pm, but call drops and connection problems remained common. Furthermore, many Grameenphone customers switched to Djuice SIM cards due to the lower call rates offered by this sub-brand. This situation began to erode Grameenphone’s market share, posing a threat to its overall sustainability.
As the popularity of free call rates waned with time, Djuice lost its appeal for many users. Additionally, when Djuice was launched in 2005, it primarily targeted the youth, anticipating that they would enter the workforce in the following decade after completing their studies. In essence, Djuice’s customer base was growing older. Meanwhile, competitors like Banglalink, Airtel, and Robi began offering affordable packages, with Airtel even adopting a similar communication style focused on friendship, similar to Djuice. In a fiercely competitive market, maintaining a separate brand with a low average revenue per user (ARPU) like Djuice became increasingly unprofitable for Grameenphone.
Furthermore, internet availability in Bangladesh had been on the rise since 2010, and in 2012, the country embraced the era of 3G Internet. As a result, Djuice’s digital interactions shifted to social media and messaging apps like Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp. By 2013, even these platforms introduced free call features. Considering this global shift in internet communication, Grameenphone may have concluded that continuing with Djuice was no longer sustainable. Consequently, one of the country’s iconic brands, Djuice, was temporarily discontinued. Currently, Djuice is only available through specific package offerings.