Ashwini Gangal

Brand Airtel brands its logo; names it 'Wave'

The name 'Wave' refers to the sweeping changes that the brand strives to bring towards enriching the lives of its customers, and symbolises the brand's virtues of progress and prosperity.

After undergoing an elaborate identity change, repositioning and logo redesigning in 2010, telecom giant Airtel has now gone a step further and named its new logo. The name - Wave - has been crowd-sourced through a six month long online contest that was initiated by Airtel in November 2010. This was when the positioning was switched to 'Dil jo chahe paas laye', a stand that's reiterated in the brand's communication currently on air.

Brand Airtel brands its logo; names it 'Wave'
The online contest, called The Name Game, invited customers to recommend a name for the company's new logo. This consumer engagement programme that led to the naming of the symbol pulled in more than 1.5 lakh consumer entries. 'Wave' was one of the three shortlisted names for the logo; the other contenders - also consumer-generated - were 'Hug' and 'Curve'. Ultimately, 'Wave' out-voted the other two.

The name Wave apparently refers to the sweeping changes that the brand strives to bring towards enriching the lives of its customers. It is also symbolic of progress and prosperity - virtues that brand Airtel stands for.

The logo's journey so far

In 1995, Airtel's two-swoosh design, crafted by the then national creative director of Rediffusion-Y&R, Gullu Sen, was meant to position the brand as one that spoke about the coming era; the then tagline, 'Touch Tomorrow', was in tandem with this positioning.

Brand Airtel brands its logo; names it 'Wave'
In 2002, the brand underwent a change that brought all its sub-brands - Telemedia, DTH and the Enterprise business - under one roof, namely, 'Airtel'. The new look that accompanied this change was designed by Bengaluru-based brand consulting and design company, Ray+Keshavan.

Last year, Airtel re-introduced itself with a brand new logo, a large 'a'. This time it also changed the letters in the name from upper case to lower case. This modification was born out of the need for a symbol that stood for humility and was one that the consumer could easily connect to. The logo was modernised and the curves made it look like a living object. This new logo was designed by London-based brand agency, Brand Union.

Maneesh Rangra, executive business director, JWT Delhi, tells afaqs! the reason for naming the symbol. "Big, global brands need to generate powerful tools that work as assets of communication. These work as shorthand for the brand," he says, adding that the current change is meant to appeal to the consumers' youthful mindset.

A 'Wave' of utility or futility?

Akin to McDonald's 'Golden Arches' (the yellow 'M' logo) and Videocon's 'Chow' and 'Mow' (the two personified parts of the brand's new curvaceous logo, the letter 'V'), Airtel's 'Wave' adds an extra bit of verve to the erstwhile inanimate logo. Will it work, though?

Brand Airtel brands its logo; names it 'Wave'
Brand Airtel brands its logo; names it 'Wave'
afaqs! asked brand experts what purpose such 'symbol branding' may serve. Shouvik Roy, director, Brand Planet Elephant has an interesting take on the issue. He remarks, "Often, this naming business is not just for external purposes; it serves to influence the internal custodians of the brand such as the employees, partners, suppliers and distributors."

According to Roy, naming the logo gives the brand an additional talking point and makes the brand story more credible. "Everyone needs a story to latch onto," he reasons, "and storytelling is a very important part of branding today."

According to Roy, when a brand is not merely a "product brand" (for instance, say, a shampoo or a pen), but is also a "corporate brand", it can't afford to focus only on consumers and needs to take such steps for the sake of its internal custodians.

Jagdeep Kapoor, managing director, Samsika Marketing Consultants harbours a very different view on the issue of logo naming. While Roy spoke about the effect of such symbol-branding from the perspective of the brand's custodians, Kapoor assesses the matter from the consumers' viewpoint. "Naming the Airtel symbol 'Wave' is a strategically wrong, useless exercise," he remarks, calling it nothing more than a "mere creative quirk".

His argument is that when a brand's logo is given a name and is thus branded in its own right, it destroys the original brand. "Naming the logo distracts the consumer from the main brand name," Kapoor says, claiming that doing so is like generating unnecessary internal competition for the brand.

"The word 'Airtel' is beautifully entrenched in the minds and hearts of consumers; why divide their attention by introducing a new name?" he questions. Kapoor reasons that if the symbol is an easily recognisable one, then the brand doesn't need to give it a name.

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