Branding and WTO accession

Under the modernization process launched in 2010, Ethio Telecom, the most profitable enterprise in Ethiopia, changed its long established logo.
When the new logo was introduced in February 2012 the enterprise stated that the ‘e’ shape with blue, green and yellow colour combination holds the ideas of: sharing and fertility inspired by the green ecosystem of Ethiopia; sharing smiles; sharing a new story of the enterprise. The new logo replaced the lion, a traditional drum and sticks logo and for massive introduction of the new logo the enterprise spent millions of birr.
But it took a matter of days for the logo to be criticized by many people. At the time observers claimed that the public enterprise directly copied a logo ofEuroclean, a Turkish based commercial cleaning company, with just colour and size changes.
Just few months after the replacement of the old logo Debretsion Gebremichael, the then Minister of Information and Communication, said that the enterprise is working to change the new logo due to different reasons including knowing that there are similarities with other logo.
Experts said that the concept of marketing emerged from economics that split in 1950s and at the same time now branding is separated from marketing.
Branding is now the youngest discipline even in the developed countries, while there is a perception that branding and marketing are the same but it is not true, according to experts.
Experts that Capital interviewed said that branding is not similar with advertising, which is one aspect of marketing.
“Branding requires specialists.We are now observing companies in Ethiopia hiring professionals in the field. It is a fulltime work rather than advertisement, which mainly targets to inform, persuade or reminding customers on short term manners when you have to approach your customers to sell your service or product,” they clarified.
When it comes to Ethio Telecom, its logo consumed millions of birr for rebranding and publications. After those huge expenses the enterprise stated immediatelythat it will change its logo, meanwhile so far it has not yet been changed.
Ephrem Arefeayne, Chief Marketing Officer at Ethio Telecom, told Capital that the telecom company does not have a plan to change its logo.“We are working on evolution at the logo. Initial featuresof the logo evolved and our plan is to continue under evolution,” he said.
“Otherwise we will not have dramatic change that might be seen in the future,” Ephrem added.
Meanwhile he argued that the logo of Ethio Telecom is introduced after detailed work. “It consider the country, its culture, the enterprise, and other different points stated under nine parameters, and then at the final arrival it looks like another logo.” “But Ethio Telecom’s logo still has a difference with Euroclean, for instance if we compare the backgrounds they are totally different,” he said.
“Logos might look identical but when evaluating them in details they have different messages; for instance our logo have a smiling face, sharing and greenery of the country,” he argued.
At the same time big companies in Ethiopia like financial institutions are engaged on rebranding their services and logos, which is a symbol of their identity. Meanwhile like Ethio Telecom observers are criticizing the short sighted rebranding scheme of these big businesses that come with huge expenses and accused them on brand piracy.
For instance a week ago Hibret Bank has introduced its new brand that is highly criticized by observers.
Observers said that most of the logos that companies adopted these days are experiencing lack of creativity and artistic values. Besides that mostly the logos are a copy paste of other service givers in other countries.
Experts criticized that the concept of ‘brand equity’ is not get attention in the Ethiopian business owners.
Aschalew Tamiru, lecturer in the marketing field in different universities for a decade and who works as marketing and branding expert in different organizations, said brand can be a name, shape, abbreviations, text, sign, or a combination of these and brand is mainly a way to differentiate a company in addition to the product and service. “Your brand should enable you to let you stand out of the crowed,” he said.
According to Aschalew, brand and a person is the same. “A man shall have known behavior, character and features. With the same token brand is the identity of the company like a person,” he explained.
He added that the formation of brand should need to identify target market and define a customer, which are the basics to successful branding. “For instance you are the seller of children goods so you have to consider them and at the same time should consider the type of buyers that might be high class, lower class or medium.” “Examine the target customers is part of the basics.”
Besides that consistent with brand positioning is the other pillar for branding that is the position of the company on the mind of customers, according to him.
“You have to define yourself in the eyes of your customers. For instance when you hear Sheraton or Unilever what comes in your customers mind should be consistent. So that customers would think the way you want get thought,” he said.
Creating the element of the brand is the other step, which might have icon or word mark, according to the sector experts.
According to legal experts these logos will not survive after the country’s accession to World Trade Organization (WTO) becomes a reality.
Ephrem argued that his company logo will not be affected in the accession of WTO. “We did not directly copy the logo from others due to that it will not be a challenge,” he argued.
On the other hand observers said that the new Hibret logo is not the only copy pasted symbol in the sector but other banks that were rebranding their logo in the past few months or years have also gone on the same way.
For instance the logos of Cooperative Bank of Oromia, Bank of Abyssinia, Awash Bank, Nib Bank, Kaldi’s Coffee and others have close or identical similarity with other international companies except some colour and other minor feature and size or line changes.
“To make matters worse these logos can be found registered on Intellectual Property Office websites around the world. If not that you can easily search these images freely on several reverse image search engines. These companies should have done this before introducing their new logo and spent millions of birr of public money,” another legal expert told Capital.
Experts also said branding is defining standardized logo shape at board, paper, and banner are crucial that should be stated on the branding guideline.
The other brand element is corporate colours that might include primary, secondary and supporting colour that should be identified in the use when and where.
“Typeface is also part of the brand that might include font families,” experts told Capital. “For instance in our country there are working languages and it might differ the fonts for the letter in Amharic with Tigrigna or Oromiffa and English. But in Ethiopia we observe that companies are using fonts without differentiation for their different letters,” they added.
Tagline that is also called motto or slogan that is a sign of a given company objective and strategy, and corporate communication and or stationary that include standardization on designs, email signatures, ID card, fax communication, envelop, business card, stamp and other standardization should be identified as part of the branding and rebranding schemes.
Promotional items that include branded give-away defined under branding tool kits are also stated in the scheme. Communication signage should be also defined under the same token and all interfaces must be consistent.
In a statement Hibret sent to Capital it states that the bank followed international bidding process on the way to rebrand the company logo. It stated that the cost is not disclosed under nondisclosure agreement with the company, Studionet plc, who manages the rebranding process.
However experts said that the company cost is not limited at the payment for the branding company. “On the branding process the company will undertake massive public relation works and publication besides changing the features and displayat its branches with significant amount of money as other similar companies executed,” they said.
Meanwhile the company declined to give any comment about the issue it said that there is limitation regarding symbols.
A representative at the bank, who preferred anonymity, told Capital that, it could be difficult to defer symbols fully but focus and reflect on conceptualizationwas its principles.
“We have limited symbols in the worldbut regarding conceptualization the colour and the shape will be different,” a representative argued.
Branding experts said elements followed by selling the brand strategically that may consume huge amount than works on pre rebranding projects, which includes to identify and define the elements.
“After identifying the elements of the brand, marketing is the second step that will take place on convenient approach based on the customers understanding,” Aschalew, an author of ‘Make a Difference with Customer Service’, a book that focus on customer service and will be in the market in the near future, said.
“The marketing effort consume huge amount of investment,” he added.
Experts reminded that branding adds values to business but you would not harvest right away. For instance mobile phones or smart TVs with different brands give similar service but their price is not equal because of the brand.
“You pay extra because of the brand that invests huge amount for longer period of use,this shows brand is not a onetime investment.”
Aschalew said that all type of companies like big or small should have to work on branding, “sometimes small companies that are working in branding are more popular than big companies, that even happened in Ethiopia.”
At the same time branding experts’ advice that branding should not delay. “Some companies are running for long period and after those long years they try to rebrand themselves, which is not correct. Branding should be started as the business opens,” a public relation consultant, who advice different companies in public relation work under his company, said.
“With its all problems the banking industry in Ethiopia that are now engaged on aggressive rebranding works is a good example” the public relation expert, who demands anonymity, expressed his observation.
He said that banks in Ethiopia, which are the richest private firms in the country, are these days allocating huge amount of investment to branding or rebranding that is highly appreciated, “but their outcome compared with their investment is perplexing.”
“Particularly when you observe the trademarks you can easily understand that they are highly attached with piracy or based on logos simply available online,” the public relation expert said.
The expert reminded that back in the days businesses on their heyday at the emperor era logos are highly attached with creativity and experts that have skills related with it, but now it is attached with computer graphic designers who lazily come up with different signs that they access online in different samples.
“You even easily access a free logo generator application online.” “If you invest huge amount of money why don’t you approach professionalsthat might be called artists or others that are close for the sector,” the expert asked.
Aschalew on the other hand said that brand is not a product to sale, meanwhile it is a result of long effort and way, which leads to a brand equity.
He said that such kind of problematic logos will not be equity for the company in the future meanwhile they spent huge amount of money today.
“In the developed world companies hire professional firms to study their brand equity that has big values for brand owners. That is why companies franchise and using the long established brands for their business like in the hospitality industry,” the brand and marketing experts said.
“When it comes to Ethiopia most companies including big and small are shortsighted. That would affect them in the near future since their brands are a copy or indefensible that is not supported by well-developed guidelines,” experts said.
At the same time professionals argue that brand is not static due to that rebranding is crucial to fine-tune a business. For instance Coca Cola is in the market for generations, while it rebranded itself in all these periods and still popular, according to the sector experts.
“The question is that why do we suppose to rebrand because others rebranded that follows by misconception about branding,” they raised their concern.
“Branding is not only development of logo,” they argued. “For instance a lady might be attractive but does not have good behaviors that shade her beauty. It is the same for companies whose brands would be accompanied by customer’s services.”
Identify and define the customers is a pillar for brand, but local companies are invited oversea firms for their way of rebranding. “Is the company from abroad having a better clue to examine your customers or local firms? This is one of the major problems in the local rebranding,” they criticized.
When joining the WTO a country will automatically agree to abide by the laws and regulations of the organization. One of the agreements of WTO is the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) which is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the.
TRIPS sets down minimum standards for the regulation by national governments of many forms of intellectual property (IP) as applied to nationals of other WTO member nations.
Specifically, TRIPS requires WTO members to provide copyright rights, covering authors and other copyright holders, as well as holders of related rights, namely performers, sound recording producers and broadcasting organisations; geographical indications; industrial designs; integrated circuit layout-designs; patents; new plant varieties; trademarks; trade names and undisclosed or confidential information. TRIPS also specifies enforcement procedures, remedies, and dispute resolution procedures. Protection and enforcement of all intellectual property rights shall meet the objectives to contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.
For example a good example is the dispute between Starbucks and Bull Pulu Tapioca on trademark registration.
The opposed logo incorporates the green-and white “BULL PULU TAPIOCA” concentric circle logo with a puppy white bull dog in the center.
Opposed mark designating goods of tapioca beverages, tapioca fruit juice beverages and retail or wholesale services for tapioca beverages. Subsequently, Starbucks Incorporated, a US coffee chain, filed an opposition based on a conflict with famous Starbucks trademarks.
“The two logos (pictured above) seems totally different but yet they triggered a legal battle, what do you think will happen to these companies who are now a rebranding spree when we join the WTO,” asked an expert.