#Airtel Brand Revamp: Social Media Response

Airtel Logo

India’s leading telecom services provider, Bharti Airtel launched its new brand identity in 19 countries across Africa and Asia last week. According to Airtel, the new brand identity has more curves and lively effects compared to the old logo, signifying the innovative approach and dynamic nature of the company. With the launch of the new logo, signature tune, television commercials and online presence, Airtel promises continued commitment and excellence in serving its customers. So much so that customers received an SMS from the CEO of Bharti Airtel Ltd., Sanjay Kapoor, informing them about the revamp, why it was done and what to expect in the months following the revamp.

Gap Rebranding

The online response to the much-hyped $65 million revamp of the largest telecom service brand in India has been mixed. What is interesting though, is the whole Airtel re-branding event and the online media buzz generated by it bears a striking resemblance to the recent GAP rebranding. GAP changed its logo for just a few days and then had to revert to the original logo due to public resentment.

Social Media – The Cynical Multitude

Airtel Brand Revamp Twitter Sentiment According to research by Position², right after the launch of the new logo on Friday, November 19, 2010, the conversation volume on Twitter about Airtel’s new logo increased drastically from 173 tweets to 7247 tweets in just 4 days. However, most of the conversations carried a negative tone.

The Brand Monitor™ team at Position² analyzed the sentiment of the top tweets from high ranking influencers. The analysis shows that:

  • Almost 62% of the conversations about the new Airtel logo were negative.
  • Only a small percentage of customers (6%) reacted positively about the new look and feel of the brand.

From the thousands of tweets, Facebook discussions and Linkedin discussions the Position² team analyzed, 3 distinct themes around the reactions emerged:

  1. Approximately 15% of the conversations were direct comparisons of the new Airtel logo to the Videocon and Vodafone logos
  2. Approximately 10% of the conversations suggested that Airtel should have invested money in improving their customer service and network availability instead
  3. A very small minority (1%) called for a reinstatement of the old logo or a fresh redesign exercise

Some examples of the many social media conversations around the rebranding exercise:

Sample Facebook Discussion:

Click to enlarge: Facebook Conversation

Sample LinkedIn Discussion:

Click to enlarge: LinkedIn Conversation

Logo Comparison Created by a Fan:

Click to enlarge: Logo Comparisons Created by a fan

Airtel wants to be perceived as a contemporary brand. But as the news of the logo change spread, a majority of people did not react to the news with positive statements. Many commented and blogged about comparisons to the old logo and on the new logo’s similarities to other logos of brands in the same category. Position² tracked the conversations on Twitter and blogs through its social media monitoring tool Brand Monitor™; According to Brand Monitor™, about 30% of twitter conversations say that the logo is a copied version of other companies like Vodafone, Videocon, Uninor, etc.

News And Blogs – The Other Side Of The Coin

The coverage in news sites and blogs was less polarized. While most believe that the old Airtel logo was a strong, contemporary, and confident symbol for the brand, there are others who confess that the new logo is more fresh and dynamic. Approximately 74% of news articles seem to be in favor of the new face of Airtel. Approximately 73% of bloggers expressed a balanced view of the new logo and signature tune.

News Sentiment Blog Sentiment

The Verdict – Your Customer Owns Your Brand Too

While social media platforms are brimming with negative comments and posts from customers, traditional media seems to have either a positive or a neutral outlook towards the re-branding exercise. Today, social media offers a chance for everyone to play critic – one can ridicule, rave, rant and vent on any subject or individual. The new Airtel logo has received severe criticism on social media, mostly from customers or people who identified better with the old brand identity.

This also brings up a significant mindset change that brands need to embrace – your customers own your brand as much as you do – and today social media provides them with a platform to express their views. GAP could roll back to the old logo since it was only soliciting feedback from the customer base. However, it is highly unlikely Airtel will revoke the change since the campaign was executed and announced simultaneously.

We’ll track this story for a few weeks, on the #airtel Twitter channel and across social media to see if sentiment changes over a period of time. Perhaps this logo will eventually find acceptance due to Airtel’s vast presence in India and other countries. If you would like more information on social media sentiment, volume and other statistics, take a look at Brand Monitor™.

Team Position²

Team Position²

Position² is an Accel-backed company that accelerates demand through Content Marketing, Paid Acquisition, and Marketing Technology services. Our solutions are mapped to customer lifecycles across touchpoints including search, social, mobile, media, email and powered by cutting-edge creative, web dev, analytics, and marketing automation. Startups to Fortune 500 companies across verticals rely on our marketing gurus, engineers, data scientists, writers and designers to rapidly deploy and scale integrated marketing campaigns.

  • Parul Ohri Jakhu

    Informative write-up. Appreciated. Must say the similarity between Videocon logo & Airtel’s new logo is so apparent..that it was better to have no logo at all!!..it was the first thing that crossed my mind the moment i saw it!! Bharti could have done so much better!

  • Charan

    Spoke to some friends working in Airtel at different mid-management positions, even they feel disassociated with the new brand identity, which clearly looks like an amateurish job. Why couldn’t they do a brand audit before the launch? The original brand identity had a very strong emotional connect with employees, who have a strong loyalty to the company. They are confused with the new brand image, because even to them Airtel is simply copying Vodafone and Videocon. A disappointed sales guy came back and told his manager that shopkeepers are making fun of the new merchandisers they have been asked to put up. Seems like this decision was totally disconnected from the rank and file of the company. All this when so much has been written on and debated on branding and positioning best practices. Really Sad!

  • Akshat

    An activity of such bandwidth, involves great risks. It would have either done wonders for Airtel, or, like it has been proved, it feel flat. I think where they went wrong, was the stark similarity between Videocon and Airtel.

    Airtel, should have learnt from Videocon, how to go about rebranding. I personally believe, they have in the recent past, carried out the most effective rebranding exercise.

    However, its just a matter of time and consumers shall soon get used to the changed logo as well…

  • Jasmine

    So aptly written!It’s like i’m reading my own thoughts..Guess this is what happens when there is a revenue overflow in such already established brands…it’s then streamlined by a major ‘REVAMP’..

  • RJ

    I couldn’t agree more with the author. The new logo looks so like the result of a one-night stand between videocon’s and vodafone’s logo. I can’t say I dislike the design though.

  • Well written article. I agree with many of the points – people own their brands – it is like religion to many of them – a way of life. So when there are significant changes, it is like changing the face of their savior. One of the reasons for the Gap consumer pushback was because it was completely different from the previous one. Gap owned that dark blue block. The change was so different that couldn’t even tell it was the same company. Airtel was not so negative because the signature red color was maintained. Even though the font was different, it felt closer to the previous one than Gap which changed font and case.

    If you look at AT&T, they were much more evolutionary. They kept the globe, but modernized it, making it look 3-D. They went from upper case to a friendlier lower case, but because of the iconic globe, it actually did not cause a painful reaction. Similarly, Apple changed from the rainbow color to white or black, but never deviated from the shape.

    Another reason for the difference in reaction is because of the industry and how people are personified by the brand. Gap is long-lived a casual clothing brand. The styles are not meant to push the edge. Airtel is a relatively new mobile brand – mobile technology is about being on the leading edge. A dynamic symbol improves the brand. I might change my Airtel phone every year, but I still wear some Gap jeans that are 10 years old. The new “1969” jeans have not changed all that much.

    Brand is all about trust. One thing is for sure – you better take your customer with you.

  • Puja

    I am not very happy as Airtel lost its Indianness in rebranding.

  • Annita Hebard

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!