A branding case study: Telenor’s success in other countries
How do you localise a global grand? There’s no one right answer, but Telenor Group has found a way given its success in 12 countries, soon to be 13 given the finalisation of negotiations in Myanmar. You can either partner with a local company, as Telenor did in Thailand to create dtac, or you can create a local version of your company, as it plans to do in Myanmar. But certain hallmarks must remain the same. The Thai-Norwegian Business Review interviewed Glenn Mandelid, director of communications for Telenor Group, to get a better idea of what is required in overseas branding. “When you’re partnering with other shareholders, you have to consider what the brand represents globally,” said Mr Mandelid. “You have to keep a common set of working values, including easy access to top management and an open working environment. But above all, you have to understand the local customer.” For example, in Thailand the market is quite different than in Europe, he said. “Here it is all about topping up. It is the same mentality as buying chewing gum at a convenience store. Thailand is a prepaid market and up until recently the focus was on voice service. Now the focus is on data, and your ad campaigns here have to be funny or emotional to work,” said Mr Mandelid. “We have a lot of statistics that analyse consumers here, but our top management also spends a lot of time in the marketplace to meet customers and see what works, what doesn’t work, and what are the thresholds for buying.” He added that foreign ownership doesn’t matter to Thai customers, as most Thais would not even recognise the name Telenor. This is by design, as locals know only dtac or the Happy brand because their concern is merely which brand gives them the quality services at the best price. And while Telenor is very hands-off with dtac, letting them run their business, in Myanmar Telenor will wholly own the telecom business. Still, several elements will be similar, said Mr Mandelid. “The graphic components will remain the same,” he said. “The logo, the font, the corporate branding guidelines— these will all be constant. But you have to allow flexibility as well, such as the red smiley-face logo they have for the Happy brand.” So if Telenor is hands- off, how does it ensure dtac represents its brand in a proper manner? “We understand there needs to be a high degree of localization, as one size definitely does not fit all in various telecom markets,” said Mr Mandelid. “But our stakeholders need to understand the value of what Telenor represents. You have to build the company culture in a certain way, and we believe that starts with hiring the right employees.”
“Here it is all about topping up. It is the same mentality as buying chewing gum at a convenience store. Thailand is a prepaid market and up until recently the focus was on voice service. Now the focus is on data, and your ad campaigns here have to be funny or emotional to work.”
Mr Mandelid said Telenor’s long-term commitment to its overseas operators was likely one of the factors that convinced Myanmar to grant it a telecom operating licence. “We’ve been in Thailand for over 10 years. When we entered Asia in 2000, all the large Western operators were here.
But now only Vodaphone remains in India, and Telenor is the only large operator in more than one market. Myanmar will be our sixth market, along with Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand,” he said. “In other words, our message is we’re here for the long haul, and we brand for the long haul.” He noted there are other aspects that may have swayed Myanmar. Telenor has studies, as do most telecom companies, that there is a direct correlation between access to mobile telephony and data and increased economic growth. But the final emphasis still needs to be on the customer, said Mr Mandelid. “Everything we do needs to be customer-centric,” he said. “A couple years back we had a branding campaign that ‘Telenor is built for people’s needs’. We have to live up to that sentiment as it’s written on the back of all our business cards.” “I’m happy to be working for a company that actually interacts with people in their daily lives. There are a few bigger companies in Norway, but they sell oil and gas to retailers, not expressly to customers. At Telenor we have a direct impact on customer’s lives.”