Thursday, October 20, 2011

On tablets and brands

Language is a funny thing. I recall working with an American consultant in 1991. Just as we were about to go into a meeting he looked at me and said "I know this isn't the word you use, but do you have a tablet I could use?"

Luckily I was able to interpret that he was after a writing pad and not some kind of pill.

Today there is news that Telstra is abandoning the marketing of the Telstra T-Touch. This was their own branded tablet - but it was a white-labelled Huawei device.

Huawei has been an active provider of white labelled modems - if you have a 3G wireless dongle there is a very good chance that it is a Huawei device. But they have not been making big moves into the direct consumer branded device market yet.

Telstra has discovered the limitation of their brand - in quite an interesting way. Where the device is clearly identified as being integral to the operation of the network - the dongle - Telstra branding works. However where the device is largely independent of the network then other branding is potentially more useful.

This is an important lesson for Telstra as it continues to think of its growth opportunities in media and applications. It should form an important consideration in its approach to partnering and co-operation - issues I've recently written about and had echoed by other execs.

Brand has always been a challenge for telcos. For example I can recall one case where a service provider could not reach agreement for resale of a mobile network's offering, even though the service provider's parent owned a big hunk of the mobile operator. Each party insisted on its own brand being on the mobile service. I couldn't understand why the SP (who I worked for) didn't agree. We only wanted to sell it in a bundle, the MO didn't sell bundles. We had no "brand" in mobiles, the MO had invested a lot in brand.

And I looked at my laptop, which was branded IBM (at the time), the software was Windows and the processor was Intel - the latter had their brands proudly attached to the case of the laptop with stickers (as they both do on the HP machine I'm on now). Each of those parties benefits by being associated with a leading brand in the related field.

Telcos have learnt this with phones. They need to learn it about content and applications.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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