Airtel changed its logo recently from a fairly generic logo unit into a ‘specially designed logo type that is modern, vibrant and friendly’, as the airtel’s website claims. It is also supposed to signal their resolve to be ‘accessible, while the use of all lowercase is their recognition for the need for humility’. For the largest telecom company in India with over 200Mn Subscribers, this is either a prescient sentiment of the rough waters ahead, or maybe just the meaningless twitching of a nervous marketing managers/ owner. The impact of this Rs 300 Cr exercise that airtel seems to investing behind the change and the communication effort of the same, remains to be seen.
Looking at the logo’s of Zain Vs the new airtel logo, one is stuck my the similarity of them too. This may well be a conscious decision and could have something to do with the acquisition of Zain Telecom by the Bharti group, a $10.7 Bn investment across Africa.
India’s own Mozart , A. R Rehman, has composed a haunting tune that has a distinct african flavour mixed with many modern sound influences. I personally love the music, but in the land of bollywood with its very own Desi music and rhythms, how many people will relate to this tune of a mass brand seems doubtful.
Then there are suggestions that the logo also implies ‘@’, a symbol for the internet, which will become a key service with 3G about to be rolled out.
As i pass through the crowded lanes of mumbai I am struck by the similarity of the look of this logo with one of Airtel’s competitors in India, Vodafone. From a distance, even the typeface seems to be similar.
I am sure that this would have been debated endlessly before the final decision was taken. But the final decision still looks strange.
So what would prompt India’s largest telecom company to undergo this transition and spend so much money on this change of a symbol?
It is not that 3G is going to be a differentiator for the brand since everyone is about to jump the bandwagon.
There is the impending threat of number portability, with Airtel maybe poised to lose the most, since it has the most subscribers, and assuming that most telecom services will become commoditised with nothing much to choose between any operator. So maybe a more emotional connection with the brand may help with retaining and attracting more consumers. The USPs are dying in the era of zero barriers to launching unique services in Telecoms.
The marketeers task is indeed complicated by the above factors. But will a mere tune, and a squiggle typeface address the challenges? Or will this entire exercise be as meaningless as the lyrics of the beautiful song, with the inevitable still becoming the reality?