The telco sector tops the list of some of the most recognised digital brands in Asia. According to Campaign Asia’s Top 100 Digital Brands report, telcos have established high awareness in their respective markets by using digital in a big way. The challenge seems to be that despite high brand recognition and a strong digital marketing push, overall consumer motivation scores low. In Singapore for example, 72 per cent of respondents say they have seen promotions of local telco Singtel through digital media, but only 17 per cent of them were motivated by the brand’s digital marketing efforts.
New applications of the ongoing digital shift in telco extend well beyond media and marketing. In emerging markets, telco and technology brands are expected to play more active roles in elevating social good in communities they operate in. We expect to see trends in voice-assisted applications and smart speakers in vehicles continue to rise, advancements in cloud and cybersecurity, a surge in the development of Smart Cities and internet of things (IoT) devices benefitting from the arrival of 5G networks.
Transcending utility status through superior customer experience
The rollout of game-changing connectivity technologies like 5G fixed wireless access signals a dramatic transformation for Asia telco operators, especially with the APAC region being predicted to lead the way.
Despite delays in rollout as a knock-on effect of the crisis, the race to 5G has become shorter and the struggle for digital supremacy even more intense, given the heavy premium on speed and flawless connections as customer satisfaction drivers. As 5G sees the role of telco shift from tech distributor to service provider, brand strategy comes into play again here as customers, especially those on the enterprise and government levels, will need help leveraging the power and potential of this new technology.
An example of 5G applications at work is seen in Thailand, currently leading the pack in the in the rollout in the ASEAN region. Surprisingly, the Covid19 pandemic accelerated rollout due to the need to power remote healthcare devices that promptly caused a huge surge in demand for ultra-fast connections. Local telcos Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Corp have been launching 5G networks starting with hospitals across the country (Techwire).
In today’s market, as articulated in the Bain report, “it is no longer the carrier with the lowest price that influences customer opinion, but the overall delivery of a superior usage experience.” The next era is upon telco brands to transcend their utility status by zoning in on customer experience and create emotional connections — an aspect that is very much influenced and achievable through branding initiatives.
Reinforcing a strong brand narrative that values connectivity and connection
In 2019, Singapore topped the inaugural Smart City Index published by IMD Business School, being one of only two Asian cities along with Taiwan in the Top 10 of 102 cities listed. Smart Cities are identified as urban areas that integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and various Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect data. This data is then used to gain insights to monitor and improve operations across the city including transportation systems, power plants, utilities, hospitals, schools, libraries and other community services.
Given the intrinsic dependency on technology, the rise of Smart Cities encourage the use of digital innovation and tech to drive livability and sustainability. Other technologies often include geospatial databases, automation and monitoring systems, data analytics, broadband networks and electronic payment. From a brand narrative perspective, a tech-driven city aimed at enriches and protecting the lives of the communities within certainly relays a positive connotation.
As telco operators and tech companies throughout the region realise that customers’ priorities are changing quickly, reinforcing a strong brand narrative that underscores connection on both human and technological levels keeps their brands at the forefront of extremely competitive market sectors.
Let’s take a look at these brand-led case studies in action:
Starhub AR 2017, Singapore
Immersive brand storytelling through an interactive online investment brand experience
Starhub is one of Singapore’s three known major telco players, with a 4th new player turning up competition in the sector. In response, Starhub shifted their business strategy to focus on customer service and launched the Hub of Ingenuinity as a platform to present intelligent and innovative solutions for corporate customers.
With the intent to inspire and empower, a series of thematic spreads linked the ingenuity message to a customer experience of StarHub and performance metrics for each of the four lines of business: mobile, pay tv, broadband, fixed-line. They also launched an interactive digital microsite simultaneously with the printed version made available to investors.
The work positioned StarHub as a future-focused brand, signalled by the “Ingenious Hubbing” theme that tied together a strong, consistent narrative that conveyed the duality of StarHub customers’ lives in the convergence of work and lifestyle needs. This was to help attract and retain customers in the face of anticipated higher switching between service providers. This shows Starhub clearly understood the impact of value creation through content that sustained the investment brand story, and used this strongly to their advantage.
A dynamic brand identity to signal core capabilities in CyberSecurity & Cloud as the main business solutions offered by this tech start-up
As a strong challenger brand for a technology start-up, Brillar needed a brand that signalled reliability, trustworthiness and intelligence. Run by IT industry professionals with experience in cyber security and enterprise cloud solutions, it was headquartered in Singapore and focused on the Myanmar market. It aspired to widen its reach in the IT sector regionally and eventually, internationally. Creating a strong brand personality, an identity and voice that matched its dynamic nature was key to reflect the vision of the business.
A logo already existed but lacked the purpose or personality of a challenger brand that Brillar set itself out to be. The creation of a strong brand personality, a dynamic identity and the aligned visual and verbal language laid out a strong foundation. Lastly, using a vortex as the graphic device across all applications visually signal of the brand’s position as an intelligent and seamless tech solutions provider.
Creation of a new brand and applied to the digital interfaces of Singapore immigration checkpoints as well as autonomous patrol vehicles and search and rescue robotics.
HTX is a new statutory board within Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs. With the mission of “securing Singapore’s future as the safest place on planet Earth,” they needed to create a brand purpose that would unify employees around a shared mission as well as attracting science, technology and engineering talent to a worthy cause.
Building on the idea of the “power of x” as a dynamic symbol allowed for impactful design interpretations that reflected its status and gravitas. Starting with the brand purpose and pulling together thoughts, ideas and information, a compelling brand story unified these. Finally, these were translated into beautiful brand elements following a comprehensive guidelines document developed for future implementation by different departments.
The branding solution for HTX also carries a clear employee value proposition, one that intends to inspire STEM talent with a sense of purpose at the forefront of technology empowering the front-line of Homeland Security. Beyond simple logos and communications, a series of illustrative branded applications and experiential office environments drove the message home — recognising the importance of daily workplaces in attracting and retaining young talent.
Technology to deliver a differentiated customer experience
By thoroughly understanding how customers use telco and technology as a reflection of what they value, companies can invest in creating consumer experiences that matter most. Building on solid brand foundations anchors businesses amidst the dizzying pace of technological advancement while also acting as a springboard for differentiated strategies that are still aligned with your brands’ core values. Especially for sectors with less tangible products such as telco and technology, focus on the quality of service and customer satisfaction is key.