Facebook rebrands as Facebook

Facebook is worried people might get confused between the service and the company because they’ve both got the same name.

The solution to this, apparently devised by Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio, is to capitalise the name when referring to the company, as opposed to the service. “The new branding was designed for clarity, and uses custom typography and capitalization to create visual distinction between the company and app,” wrote Lucio.

The sudden need to make this distinction seems to come from a desire to appear transparent about the growing Facebook empire. Some US politicians have expressed regret that Facebook was allowed to buy WhatsApp and Instagram, resulting in it controlling a large proportion of the instant messaging and social media markets. Further attempts at expansion, such as the Libra cryptocurrency project, have further stoked those concerns.

So now other Facebook-owned services will feature the news capitalised logo more prominently, so people don’t get all confused. “This brand change is a way to better communicate our ownership structure to the people and businesses who use our services to connect, share, build community and grow their audiences,” explained Lucio.

Branding is an arcane business at the best of times. Companies seek to imbue letters and shapes with all sorts of spurious characteristics and connotations, but hardly anyone else cares. We won’t be capitalising Facebook when we write about it because that’s just silly. But if it’s really important for them that we do, we suggest that come up with a plausible eight-word acronym and we’ll think about it.


New BT logo looks more like a warning than an invitation

British Telecom has filed for a trademark on a new logo but it’s a bit rubbish and the internet is ridiculing it.

Whichever brand consultancy BT has hired, presumably at great expense, to refresh its logo presumably either couldn’t be bothered to think about it properly or was given bad advice by its client. The result is simply the letters ‘BT’ with a circle around them. Black letters, black circle, white background, that’s it. Even the font is boring.

The Guardian was one of the first to cover the filing and marketing mag Campaign pointed out that its seems to be an even more stark and boring version of a rebrand it was planning three years ago, but wisely put on the back burner. At least that one had some colour in it. Unsurprisingly the internet has been quick to mock this feeble effort, with a great piece of opportunistic guerilla marketing from Poundland our current favourite.

“We’ve shared our new logo with our colleagues today and will consult them on the detail as we gradually roll it out towards the end of the summer,” a BT spokesperson told the Guardian. “Our CEO has been very clear that the new mark symbolises real change. Making every BT employee a shareholder in the company is the first step towards transforming BT into a national champion that exceeds our customers’ expectations.”

While it’s understandable that new CEO Jansen would want to spray his scent on his new company we think he can afford to take a bit longer over such a momentous decision. Right now it looks at best like a functional street sign designed to warn the unsuspecting punter about BT rather than endear it to them. Not all change is good, Phil, and you might want to give the whole thing a rethink on your summer holidays.

The real branding challenge faced by BT is how to incorporate, if at all, EE. Its brand currently goes heavy on the letters-in-a-circle theme, albeit with a bit more creative flair, so maybe BT is trying for a bit of geometric alignment or something. But as we move into the 5G era, Britain’s biggest telco should think twice before rebranding itself to look like a speed limit sign.

Xiaomi unveils new strategy stressing AI, IoT and smartphones

The Chinese device maker Xiaomi has announced its new strategy will be built around two core areas: smartphone and AI+IoT.

At the company’s annual party, Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s founder and CEO, pledged an investment of CNY 10 billion ($1.5 billion) over the next five years, in a strategy it calls AIoT (meaning both “AI+IoT” and “All in IoT”). The objective is to develop this part of the business into a second core of the company’s strategy, to dovetail with its current core business: smartphones.

Xiaomi is no stranger to artificial intelligence. AI has been in the centre of Xiaomi’s marketing messages for its photo technologies on the new smartphones and the smart speakers. Nor has it been a novice in IoT. In fact, Xiaomi claims to be the world’s largest IoT company, “connecting more than 132 million smart devices (excluding mobile phones and laptops), including more than 20 million daily active devices as of September 30 (2018).” This mainly comes in its smart home category including products ranging from smart suitcases to smart scooters and everything in between.

Smartphone, on the other hand, has always been the linchpin in Xiaomi’s ecosystem. After its fast growth in China and the rapid market share gain in emerging markets like India, Xiaomi recently expanded into Europe, including choosing to debut its latest flagship smartphone in London. Additionally, Xiaomi sees in Latin America new growth opportunites. It is also one of the smartphone OEMs to endorse Qualcomm’s 5G chipset. However, as Lei recognised, “Before the proliferation of 5G technology, Xiaomi’s success in smartphone business segment lies in striving to consolidate its leading position in the smartphone markets across the world.”

As a means to continue strengthening its smartphone positions, Xiaomi also announced a dual-brand strategy. Its flagship and other high-end products will continue to come under the “Mi” brand, while the mid-range value-for-money products will carry the “Redmi” brand. Here Xiaomi may have taken a page from Huawei’s brand strategy, which has used “Honor” to address the mid-range segment while its flagship products have been branded “Huawei” and come in Mate or Pro series.

Verizon breaks Oath

Less than two years after coming up with the name ‘Oath’ to encompass all its media properties, Verizon has sensibly concluded it’s a rubbish name.

As a result it’s being rebranded as Verizon Media Group, a much more prosaic, utilitarian name and more of a default description than a brand, but nonetheless better than Oath. We don’t know how much good money was thrown after bad in trying to polish this turd of a name, but Verizon at least deserves credit for not persisting with it indefinitely.

“I’m excited today to share that beginning January 8, 2019, Verizon Media Group will replace the Oath brand, representing our strong alignment as a core pillar of Verizon’s business,” wrote K. Guru Gowrappan, who replaced former AOL boss Tim Armstrong just ten days ago at the top of Oath. The immediate renaming of the group would appear to be a fairly symbolic act by Gowrappan and Armstrong is only hanging around until the end of the year.

The rest of Gowrappan’s post commenced with the standard ‘this just goes to show how well everything’s going’ corporate spin that it’s apparently compulsory to attach to any announcement. After that we got a list of all the specific things that have gone well at the artist formerly known as Oath, in case any doubt remained about how well things are going.

Most of those focused on Yahoo sub-brands, which must surely remain a work in progress. In basing its move into digital media on a couple of very faded internet brands – Yahoo and AOL – Verizon created a branding challenge for itself that it attempted to solve with Oath. Having acknowledged that mistake it wouldn’t be surprising to see further rebranding done within the Verizon Media Group.

Vodafone says it’s ‘ready’ but does it speak for all operators?

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Niall Norton, CEO at Openet, a BSS and customer engagement systems provider, reflects on Vodafone’s recent rebrand and considers if it’s indicative of a wider identity crisis the global operator community is starting to recover from  

Vodafone recently announced a change in its brand positioning. It includes logo tweaking and a new strapline suggesting renewed optimism for the future. The renowned ‘Power to You’ will be replaced by ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’

Vodafone itself, through its CCO and CSO, Serpil Timuray believes the changes it has made reflect ‘the very good reasons to be optimistic about the future as emerging innovations in science and technology begin to have a profoundly positive impact on society.’

The announcement made me smile for two reasons. Firstly, it’s always good when the leading lights of our industry feel bullishly confident about the future. Secondly, it shows that Vodafone has invested serious time and money in working out how it’s going to deliver meaningful brand engagement.

The unwritten truth here is that all global operators, not just Vodafone, have had their world’s turned upside down over the past five years or so. They are all having to deal with deep structural change because of new technologies and new competitors changing all the rules.

They are all contemplating a future where they must justify a monthly tariff, despite voice and SMS being free, and with mobile data rapidly heading in the same direction. They seek new revenues despite not being entirely clear on where they might come from. They are trying hard to work out how to deliver better customer engagement and brand value despite a reliance on largely invisible, utility-like connectivity making them more invisible to the consumer.

To make matters worse, from a technology enablement perspective, most operators have tried to enact change with their hands tied behind their backs. Legacy technology from the old world, is being hopelessly out maneuvered by agile, webscale, cloud-based architecture from the new world.

A combination of these factors has led to something of an operator identity crisis. All have been asking themselves ‘where and how do we offer value today, and how do we build on this to prosper in the future?’

There are no shortage of possibilities. New revenues will likely come from IoT, bundled partnerships with third parties and contextual marketing services. Greater network and service efficiencies will be realized by embracing AI, automation and NFV to radically improve time-to-market and herald a new era of customer relevance.

All the component parts are there to help operators identify how they’re going to be successful. New services will be supplemented with innovative, context-aware capabilities that offer actionable insights and help operators build in new levels of personalisation. This will combine to create an emotional attachment for operator customers to try and make them feel part of an exclusive club. This will deliver engagement that’s valuable, not just noisy.

The global vendor community will continue to deliver the R&D the operators need to remain successful. As always, the operators that will be successful will be those that possess the agility to embrace change quickest. Crucially this means effectively communicating positive messages while helping customers navigate this change and selecting technology that can deliver this change.

Vodafone describes its purpose as helping its customers ‘adapt and prosper as remarkable new trends reshape the world.’ This is a decent summary of the challenge operators face. It’s down to us technology vendors and other partners to work closely with them so we can all work out how we’ll be successful.


Niall_NortonNiall Norton has been Chief Executive Officer of Openet Telecom Limited since September 2006. He served as Chief Financial Officer of Openet Telecom Limited since joining in February 2004. He served as the Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary of O2 (Ireland) where he was responsible for O2’s financial control functions, business process re-design, strategy planning and wholesale. He also took the lead management role for the Ireland element of the BT Wireless demerger and O2 IPO process. He has been a Director of Openet Telecom Limited since August 2006. Mr. Norton holds a degree in Commerce from University College Dublin and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.

Vodafone has one of those gratuitous brand repositioning exercises

Few things seem to illustrate corporate folly more than blowing tons of cash on brand positioning, but that doesn’t stop them persisting with it.

The latest to take the plunge is UK-based operator group Vodafone, which has embarked on its first major brand spasm since the introduction of the ‘power to you’ strapline in 2009. This time some expensive brand consultancies have helped the company come up with the idea that technology ‘…will play a positive role in transforming society and enhancing individual quality of life over the years ahead.’

To represent this digital utopia Vodafone has gone for the new strapline: ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’. The ‘Ready’ bit seems to be especially important, so much so that Vodafone is going to force the English version on all its markets regardless of their spoken language. So in Spain, for example, it will be “El futuro es apasionante. Ready?” as opposed to “El futuro es apasionante. ¿Listo?”

“We believe there are very good reasons to be optimistic about the future as emerging innovations in science and technology begin to have a profoundly positive impact on society,” said Vodafone Group Chief Commercial Operations and Strategy Officer, Serpil Timuray. “Vodafone has a long and proud history of bringing new technologies to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, enhancing quality of life and transforming the workplace. Our new brand positioning is intended to embody Vodafone’s mission and purpose to help our customers and communities adapt and prosper as these remarkable new trends reshape the world.”

To back up this wide-eyed optimism Vodafone commissioned some research that concluded people are really optimistic. Vodafone is also doing a minor tweak to its parenthesis logo, which was first unveiled back in 1998, but the brand timeline video below serves mainly to illustrate how little it has evolved since then. Lastly there’s a video ad that Vodafone plans to inflict on us before long to hammer home the message.