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Brander laments telco's 'lost chance'

Deborah Hill Cone

Friday 5th December 2003

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A transtasman branding specialist says the new branding of New Zealand's biggest listed company is "shocking" and a lost opportunity for the telco.

Annie Dow of Dow Design is scathing about the Telecom rebranding, which is the first time in 16 years the logo of the company has had a substantial makeover.

Telecom denied the branding was done by overseas consultants, saying it was devised by its advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi inhouse.

Saatchi group account director Tim Martin said: "I'm sure there were consults all over the place" but said he had not been working on the account at the time.

Telecom explained the design, two small squares and a rectangle, reflects the telco now "has a broadband network, wireless technology and the capacity to transmit large packages of data across our networks."

The image also kind of resembles a "T".

But Dow said the new image was not an improvement on its old look ­ a bundle of wires sticking out of a pipe which at least showed what business the company was in.

Telecom had tried to be too clever.

"They lost what they had ... it looks cheap and static and does not inspire confidence for our leading telecommunications company," Dow said.

She said the rebranding was a lost opportunity to show Telecom's brand essence.

"Most brands have it underneath but it's just pulling out that jewel and working on it," Dow said.

"Every brand has something you can find."

She said some corporates were not using good design thinking which was about strategy and design intelligence rather than being fashionable or trendy.

"They do not understand the value design can bring."

Dow is part of a group of design entrepreneurs who are trying to promote design as a key export industry, in the same way film, fashion and wine have created their own clusters.

Her specialist branding company Dow Design, 10 years old this year, is Auckland-based ­ in a revamped Elim church ­ with an office in Melbourne and 20 staff overall.

The firm which is run by Dow and her husband Greg specialises in FMCG clients and was behind the successful Anchorville campaign for New Zealand Dairy Foods as well as high profile work for other clients including Fresh 'n' Fruity yoghurt, Mac's Beer, Abe's Bagels, Killinchy Gold icecream, Tegel and Robert Harris.

Dow said the marketer's role is changing.

They are not just given a stack of cash and told to make ads, they are now responsible for showing they are generating a bottom line profit.

Crazy battles are being waged over tiny shifts in market share and marketers are resorting to an array of tactics just to make small gains, Dow said.

But in one example of how branding can go directly to the profit and loss statement, Dow said her firm had rebranded Fresh 'n' Fruity's smoothy drink as "Yoghurt to go" and seen sales increase 30% without any advertising.

"It's not just packaging ­ we are strategic thinkers," Dow said.

Dow had researched the design industry as part of her campaign to sell New Zealand design to the world ­ including an attempt to push Kiwi design in the US marketplace.

She believes New Zealand designers have something different to offer in international markets.

"We take a fresh approach to the way we work ­ I think New Zealand is coming of age and has some extremely good design companies," Dow said.

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