Monday, September 19, 2011

Telstra and branding

Well, Telstra is going multi-coloured.

I want to discuss the three themes in the clip in reverse order, being mission, promise and brand.

Telstra's advertising strap line "It's how we connect" is explained with the video saying "Connection is important to every single one of us. After all we can't be human on our own." This is going to be very powerful for Telstra if they can simply get across the line on actually making this corporate value number 1 - rather than the creation of shareholder value.

I was part of an exercise at AAPT/TCNZ that crafted a really powerful vision that was based on exactly the ame theme - the purpose of Telecom NZ was to satisfy human beings need to communicate. It is remarkable how motivational that can be. That doesn't mean return to shareholders doesn't count - you have to manage all stakeholder interests to achieve the goal. But as John Kay points out in 'Obliquity' often the best way to achieve a goal is to not work on it directly.

Telstra also seems prepared to step up its own communications saying "We sound different to how we used to as well. It's all about taking complicated subjects and talking about them in uncomplicated ways. And concentrating on talking like human beings not like machine."

It is nice to see the acknowledgement that they need to do better. But saying they need to talk about complicated subjects in simple ways is a cop-out. They need to say simpler things! It is not enough to try to explain complicated plans better - the goal should be to simplify the plans.

And if they want to talk like people not machines will they turn off the voice recognition on their queues - or at least give customers the choice between using "grunt" or their keypad. Go one better and put the menu tree for the IVRs up online so a customer can skip right through and just key in the answers at once!

But the real issue is this is dangerous customer service territory. A customer evaluates service as the gap between their expectation and the delivery. Saying you will get better makes the expectation go up, increasing the amount of experience improvement you need to actually shift the satisfaction score.

Finally swe get to the brand itself. No change in the shape of the logo that I can see just the move to six different two colour representations.

The video says of this;

We now live in full colour, because we know you do. It helps make us more relevant to you and your life.

The way we now look is all about representing the way we connect with you, the way you connect with our products and of course how you connect to the people in your life.

This just opens up so many questions. Firstly, did Telstra really live in two colours before just because their logo was? What does it mean to live in full colour? Exactly how does the colours of a logo make anyone more or less relevant?

More interestingly is Telstra going to register all twelve shades and maybe go one better than Cadbury and argue that it now owns the rights to the rainbow? It certainly makes it very hard for others choosing colours.

The overall shift to so many colours reflects the shift to online rather than print for so much copy. Colour is cheap online - it is more expensive (and tiresome) in print. (but see this advice)

The unanswered question is whether the six separate colour pairings will be used to represent different aspects of the way we connect with Telstra, their products or each other, or whether there will be a free-for-all or whether everything comes in different colours.

Finally for the history buffs. The original Telstra yellow and blue logo was created to accommodate the merger between OTC and Telecom Australia.

The merged entity was initially known by its official name - the Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (AOTC). A logo existed for letterheads and business cards for a few execs in corporate roles but little else (and I couldn't find a copy on Google Images - I'll have to find an old AOTC business card of mine to scan).

The rebranding came up with a new name "Telstra" - to get away from the generic "Telecom". The logo combined the OTC and Telecom Australia colours. It was introduced in two stages. For the first two years the new logo was used with the words "Telecom Australia" for the domestic business, for the overseas business the new logo and name wre used, but "OTC AUSTRALIA" appeared beneath it.

No one, of course, was happy. A lot of OTC guys complained that Asian customers would struggle to pronounce the name. Others were concerned about the confusion between Telstra and Telstar.

But the best of the lot was a story Frank Blount told me. He'd just announced the brand change and received an e-mail from a person who'd come in from the Telecom Australia part. The e-mail told Frank that he thought the decision was bad, because the people of Australia loved Telecom and had a real connection to it, and we would risk alienating them as we faced competition.

Frank rang the person and asked what he did. He worked in the IT Department, his team was part of the billing design group. Frank asked the guy if he understood how important that was given the trouble you have with customers if bills are wrong etc. The guy liked what he heard. After a bit more building up Frank finished the call "So you understand how important what you do on billing is to the company?" The guy says "Yes Frank." Frank replied "So how about you get on and do that and leave it to me to run the company/worry about brand."

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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