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“Free Speech”

Established in 1991, Vodafone is one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, with 523.5 million mobile customers — 212 million in India alone — and 18.5 million fixed broadband customers across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. Last week, Vodafone introduced a new logo designed by Brand Union as part of a global brand re-positioning.

Logo evolution over the years.

The new visual identity will place much greater emphasis on Vodafone’s iconic ‘speech mark’ in the biggest change to one of the most recognisable symbols of Vodafone since the ‘speech mark’ logo was created in 1998. The ‘speech mark’ will now appear as the central graphical focus overlaid on all marketing and marketing communications activity. The logo will also appear in a new 2D design in place of a skeuomorphic 3D approach.

Vodafone press release

New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Logo.
New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Icon.

Since Vodafone is not in the U.S., this isn’t a brand I know well enough so my experience with it is limited to the few overseas travels in the last few years and what’s apparent is that Vodafone can appear to be everywhere and part of it is its striking speech-bubble mark that — regardless of whether it’s good or not — it makes a bold impression. Drenched in 3D renderings as it was before it definitely had impact — gaudy impact but impact nonetheless. It was improbable that Vodafone would change to something else altogether so this evolution is in tune with what the rest of the brands are doing, which is going flat.

As usual, it looks better to designers’ eyes but I wonder if this loses more equity and recognition than something like Audi or Movistar did when they shed their gradients and textures? The bevel effect was so strong in the old rendering that I think that was more recognizable than owning the color red (vs. T-Mobile’s magenta or Orange’s orange). With the speech mark all in red, it will take some time to build the same instant recognition the silver and red version had. This challenge is further compounded by the use of the speech mark as a stroke in the applications, but we’ll get to that in the next later. The new wordmark is fine and, as a personal preference, way better than the old UPS- and FF Dax-like clunker.

New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Sample of old look.

Vodafone’s brand positioning strategy focuses on the theme of optimism about the future, using the new strapline, “The future is exciting. Ready?”. The first part of the strapline will be presented in local languages with the second part – “Ready?” – presented in English. For example: “il futuro è straordinario. Ready?” in Italian; and “El futuro es apasionante. Ready?” in Spanish.

Vodafone press release

New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Tagline.

In an era where tag lines make little sense or try way too hard, “The future is exciting. Ready?”, isn’t exciting but at least it makes grammatical sense. It also has a good way of involving the viewer by asking a question. But critiquing tag lines isn’t my forte, so we’ll leave it at that.

New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Ad-type things.
New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Twitter account header.
New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Serpil Timuray, Group Chief Commercial Operations and Strategy Officer, Vodafone Group.

The old applications had an interesting visual going, which was the icon stretching a red layer across a white or photo background, creating a focal point for it. It created some odd layouts but it was an easy way of making applications consistent as well as establishing a recognizable graphic device. The new applications rely on a much more “fragile” graphic device which is a stroked version of the speech mark on its own. Removing the circle around it takes a way a lot of its visual presence.

While the idea is sort of interesting, I think this lacks the impact necessary for the brand to scream as loud as it did in the past in order to compete out there in the world where it has to go head to head with all other major brands, not just of mobile providers but the Nikes and Apples of the world. There might be too much visual pressure on the stroked icon and I’m not sure it will be able to deliver.

New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Sara Oliviera, Head of Brand and Media, Vodafone Group.
New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
Launch in Ghana.
New Logo for Vodafone by Brand Union
No-frills application.

Once the applications start getting real, I think you can see how the stroked speech mark can start to lose its gravitas and become a framing device that you just use and use and use and becomes something to easily ignore. The application directly above is a good example… it makes the speech mark look… mundane. Additionally As the image with the CCO and the image of the little girl with the robot (in the elevator) show, this identity could quickly suffer from bad Photoshop silhouetting and it could make the brand look really poorly, really quickly.

“Hello” TV spot. Produced by Ridley Scott Associates.

The big splash for the new brand is being delivered through a Ridley Scott Associates ad that shows the “evolution of hello”. It’s no Blade Runner but even then it’s super bland. I can see the executives going for goose bumps with it but they lost me at hologram. Overall, the change is fine and it will work because Vodafone has the budget to make the change stick but it’s far from the inspirational brand shift that the press release touts or that the company would have benefitted from.