Telecom New Zealand is changing its name to Spark. Most commentators regard it as a backward move, most recently Lance Wiggs who diagnoses marketing capture, distraction from executive and board, and the death of a valuable brand.
I’d like to respectfully disagree.
I might be a contrarian, but I think it’s a good idea. First, let me quickly disregard that idea that Telecom New Zealand is a good brand. It’s a fucking terrible brand for what they want to do with the company. They do NOT want to be a dumb pipe, a commodity provider of connectivity—particularly now they don’t have Chorus. They’ve announced Internet TV and there’ll be more to come, I’m sure. The branding lets them get as far away as possible from the idea that they’re a telco.
(Note that I don’t like this. The incentives are all there for them to link their content-provision and connectivity businesses, raising barriers to competition in both, and before long you end up with “competition” like the supermarkets have. Which is to say, bugger all.)
Also, it has to be said, nobody had good connotations of Telecom New Zealand except Saatchi and Saatchi who made their TV spots. Customers have memories of being screwed by Theresa Gattung’s Telecom, by the Yahoo! deal, by the initial XT failures, by …. Nobody should mourn the brand. Nobody. If they listed “goodwill” on their balance sheet, their auditors should be fired.
Executive team and board? They’re busily lowering headcount, in restructure after restructure, dropping cost as they do so. They’ve got new products launching, Skinny is doing well, and the only blight on the business is really that shit-stained deal with Yahoo!. It needs to go, seriously. How many times do you let your customers be skull-fucked by Yahoo! before you step in to save them?
Marketing capture … I don’t know, this might actually be a case of marketing earning their money. Too soon to tell whether the marketing department are snorting cash off $100 bills, giving each other Maseratis as bonuses, and dreaming up slow-motion soft-focus child-smiling TV spots for products that leave you wondering what the fuck they actually do.
I look forward to reviewing this decision in two years to see whether it was wise or foolish. If it were wise, the company’s products will have expanded well past pipes into a useful suite of over-the-top services, and “Spark” will accurately reflect the creative bright leading role they play with technology in our lives. If it were a poor decision, it’ll be unremarkable service, meh products, wanktastic advertising, inflicting Yahoo! mail on its customers, and the name won’t matter a damn.