Way back when, telecoms brands loved to impress upon us their global nature, the power of their connectivity and their, err, swooshiness. Thus their visual identity systems pretty much all featured globes, cables or similar metaphors for connection and a whole lot of swirls. The near ubiquity of this approach was one of the things that made Wolff Olins’ BT Piper so daring in its day, not to mention Orange.
But this was back in the days when to be a telecoms provider meant dealing in phone calls, telex and the brave new world of the fax. Those businesses are totally transformed today. In addition to connecting us, they are about entertainment and sharing: they are a constant, highly personal presence in our lives. So it is no surprise that their visual language has shifted so dramatically.
Over the past ten years, the telecoms sector has seen an incredible wave of innovation when it comes to branding. Think of three, EE, O2, Giffgaff. Not a ‘com’ or a ‘net’ among them.
To see just how far this sector has come, take a look at Moving Brands’ new identity for what was Eircom. Known as Telecom Éireann until September 1999, as this Irish Times piece points out, Eircom “has been through the mill, with six changes of ownership over 16 years”. It’s now private-equity owned.
Its old identity belonged very much in the global-swooshiness of yesteryear. Moving Brands’ new system aims at all the qualities we now expect of such brands – as the studio says it “conveys the business’s shift from a supplier of infrastructure and services to one that is more approachable, human, warm, and positive”.
Moving Brands also came up with the new name, eir. Removing that dusty old ‘com’ fortuitously left something that sounds like ‘air’ – and our digital services are so essential to us today that, yes, you could almost say they are as essential as oxygen. The soft, flowing new logo tilts upward to suggest progress and elevation – does it also suggest a figure reaching out to touch a screen?
It’s really nicely drawn and – so important today – animates beautifully. As Armin over at Brand New notes, its semi-transparent nature allows background imagery to come through which is a nice touch. And it expands into a coherent, playful brand that is full of colour and vitality.
Some notes in an official press release also reveal the enormous scale of the roll out. At “€16 million, this is the largest rebranding in Ireland in the past twenty years,” Eir say. “More than 100 agencies worked on all aspects of the rebrand…. Customers will immediately begin to see the change as almost 1,500 technicians will don a new uniform from today with 160 rebranded vans on the road. In total, the eir fleet of 1,500 vehicles will be rebranded over the coming months. All 63 stores nationwide will reveal the new identity on launch day, with a further 53 to get an internal refit in the coming days and weeks. There will be 6,000 TV ads, 4,500 radio ads, 2,100 outdoor posters and 80 million impressions online which will display the new eir brand and demonstrate the new direction for the business.”
Although this will probably get translated in the mainstream press as “new Eircom logo costs €16 million”.
This scale underlines the risks inherent in these huge projects. Eircom, as was, had 2 million customers and, before the new ownership, a chequered financial past. Our relationship with telecoms brands has become far more personal, yes, but also emotional. Will Eir’s new, friendly face be credible to customers who may have had poor experiences in the past? As with many rebrands, the promises made by the visual transformation are surely only as good as whatever concurrent change takes place in the delivery of the services themselves.
Read the Moving Brands case study here