MTN re-branding story: An insider account

By  Elizabeth Olagunju

Telecom Giant, MTN effectively communicated its transition from a Telecoms company to a technology company to its internal and external publics through its rebranding and brand identity campaign. This was a subject of an intense industry conversation on the Brandversation of Africa Twitter handle, a few days ago. During the conversation, Akinpelu Sherif Lanre, Strategy lead, SPV Communication Limited, and Yatish Bashir, Chief Experience Officer, Grid Worldwide gave insider accounts on MTN’S identity transformation.

Leading the conversation, Tosin Balogun, Co-founder of Brandversations Africa opined that MTN was not a stranger brand in Nigeria especially when it comes to the telecom space. Most people know MTN, even those who don’t use the network. He also said that MTN as a brand, came into Nigeria, with so much energy and vibrancy when it started in Nigeria over 20 years ago.

Speaking about the factors and challenges that drove the timing and decision for MTN to rebrand at this point, Yatish Bashir said that MTN has been in the Telecom space for a very long time and re-branding is so much more than changing a brand’s logo, there are different challenges. He also said that drove a brand like MTN to think about what their brand stands for and how they can deliver it, this drove the timing and decision to rebrand.

“MTN started very different from what it is today. It operated in a more analogue world; it was more print and traditional. Now it is not just products and services that MTN is looking into delivering but the world in general. This is certainly a time frame to look at how much it has pitched up far in the 21st-century digital world. That was one of the challenges”

“The other challenge is, if you look at the business ambitions, ambition 2025 and the sort of products and services they want to bring into the market, MTN’S competitors are very different. It sees itself in a different competitive set. It is no longer competing against the telcos that it used to compete against, it is now the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon who are MTN’s competition. Our competitor’s set is now completely different and that is the second challenge we had to look at.”

Speaking further  on the factors and challenges that informed the re-branding decision, Yatish Bashir said that, MTN has evolved over time, the brand has been known on the surface, as a data and voice company, however, there is so much more the company is doing behind the scenes “It sort of got to a stage where the brand, as it currently stood, just couldn’t hold the stretch of MTN, and so it was time for us to reintroduce a new brand that will take us into the future”

Akinpelu Sherif strategy lead, SPV communication solutions also reiterated that MTN does not want to be seen as just a voice and data company, rather as a brand that can be named the leading platform that will drive progress in Africa, which is different from other telcos competitor’s “MTN is still that vibrant and energetic brand that was created in Africa for Africans. And for us, it is not about data and voice call, it is something much bigger that is going to affect and redefine the way we live life, starting from now and into the future” he said

Over the years, MTN has been an explorer brand in the telecommunications industry. The new outlook, structure, and communications strongly attest to this fact. However, consumers and industry watchers are quite curious as to what informed MTN’s decision to retain the tagline “Y’ello” and discard the”Everywhere you go” tagline. Addressing this, Yatish Bashir said: “The one thing we questioned quite firmly was the assumptions we made about a tagline, logo, or template. These are the things we refer to as a rand’s assets. An asset is something that you strongly associate with a brand. With MTN we have got a bunch of assets that we use. You may recognise the oval shape,  the yellow colour, or the typeface. One of the most recognised assets in the continent is the line, “everywhere you go”. We certainly haven’t gotten rid of it.”

“Just because we changed the signage and said ‘Y’ello’, people think we are replacing it, and we are not. “Everywhere you go” hasn’t gone anywhere. We now use the right asset in the right situation to make sure we communicate what we need to communicate and Y’ello is one of them. It is a tremendous way to welcome you or launch something. Over time you are going to see how we leverage what we call distinctive assets to show up. Distinctive assets are not just visuals, it’s the way we speak, the language we use, the copy, and the way we behave. We don’t think we need to end everything with a tagline for you to recognize MTN” he explained.

MTN’s parameters in picking one asset over the other are that they must be very unique and famous. The MTN typeface, the color yellow, and the tagline”Everywhere you go” are all unique and have a high level of recall, which consumers can easily associate with the brand. MTN’S color yellow isn’t that unique because any brand can decide to use the color yellow, however, for 20 years now, MTN has painted the continent yellow, and consumers can’t help but to think of MTN everywhere they go.



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