I am not sure if Facebook has the technology to search for the most prominent keywords in status updates of people at a given point of time, but if they had it like Twitter search, it would have been revealed that a great deal of Bangladeshi users of mobile services are all abuzz about the recent renaming exercise executed by the 3rd largest telecom operator in Bangladesh. Some of the witty reactions are as following as found from status updates and the Corporate Blog's Facebook page.
i m disgusted wid the name :s thanks god i m not a subscriber of ROBI
Syed Almas Kabir
If it is Robi, what phone shall we use on Shome, Mangal, Budh, Brihashpati, Shukra & Shani?? ...And if they spell the name as ROBI instead of RAVI (correct transliteration), doesn't it seem like they're trying to 'rob' the consumers?!
Shahed Mustafa Mujahid
Can we now call the people working there as ROBIul? (this is my favorite!)
Soumya Bardhan - Rahul
its a sad name! and their outdoor publicity looks so cheap!
Forget the name..this is one of the worst executed relaunches ever..the atl, btl colors, execution everything..
Next year it will be renamed as 'shom'
Abu Jafar Sadiq
Can the company recover this blow on itself? A stupid move.
Njmul Haider Mukul
branding name jara select korcjey tader uchit,job cherey deoa. Oh jogonnno
It seems it would help Robi to immediately undertake a post-mortem of their brand value after this akika which seems to be generating mixed, if not negative, reactions. I called up a Robiul friend of mine, who works in Robi actually, to ask him about his reactions. He made sure that his name doesn't show anywhere on this blog and expressed his utter disappointment and embarassment to have been rebranded like this. We ran through a few assumptions, albeit jokingly.
1. Although its common knowledge is that Asiatic was involved in this grand Aktel akika, its possible that the Goverment's representative from the Ministry of Renaming was involved in the task force. This is the person who is charged with renaming major establishments around Bangladesh with a political motive. Its possible that he tried his F2 (keyboard shortcut for renaming) skills in the business sector too.
2. It is possible that the new DoCoMo and Axiata management became so obsessed with local heritage that they decided to go for brand names straight from Bangla Academy dictionaries, rather than considering some local acceptance and norms in terms of linguistic preferences. No wonder Michael Kuehner has some excessive doses of Rabindranath to keep justifying the name with that of the poet's name and its proximity with the mass people of Bangladesh. Surely Rabindranath is close to our hearts, but his name as the brand name of a telecom operator? Spend some more time around Bangladesh Mikey, you will realise what you are smoking.
3. It might be that a talented baby elephant works in the agency hired by Robi, who can paint as well from time to time. So the baby elephant got paid to come up with his best efforts for this renaming of Aktel.
We also discussed how this wave of negativity could have been mitigated to some extent if Aktel would have decided to experiment in certain cases. Assuming that we refrain from criticising the very name, but focusing on the process to arrive there. Lets look at some scenarios.
1. Internal Staff Survey:
According to Robiuls, staff was never consulted or involved in any way in this process. I wonder if an internal competition or consultation could have taken place or not,to ask for suggestions. Certainly Asiatic made sure that this was not required, otherwise why they are there for?
2. Involving Aktel customers:
Say Aktel sends an SMS to its existing users asking them to send naming suggestions to a certain shortcode for free. The lucky user whose suggestion would be accepted would win some trip or something. Or even users whose suggestions would reach the top 10 shortlisted names, would receive some sort of act of 'free love' from the mobile operator. Did that happen?
3. Involving ordinary consumers:
Then there is the traditional way of print and electronic media where Aktel could have tried to create some sort of a collaborative wave of competitions, suggestions by mobile users of all operators, ordinary consumers in this major rebranding effort in its history. What did it do instead? It relied on the elephant who paints and picks up names for brands from Bangla Academy dictionaries. Although it claims that 'Robi will remain beside the people of Bangladesh as they want. Robi will incorporate Bangla in all facet of its work. In Bangladesh, telecommunication sector witnessed massive development during the last decade, mainly due to the penetration of mobile telephony. However, there remain enormous opportunities for further growth as the economic indices grow correspondingly. As the main thrust of development will be rural-based, identification of the name with a Bengali word is expected to add significant value.' What this statement misses is the fact that picking up any Bengali name, as suggested by the elephant, will not reach the rural target audience until they know what that means, if they use it or not, even if its a Bangla word. No wonder their website is still all in English with the new brand name as the only Bangla script around. So much so for rural users of mobile in Bangladesh.
4. What about social media?
Another proof of Aktel's opting for archaic means of consumer involvement is the total disregard for social media. Certainly no other big Bangladeshi brands are considering social media in a large scale, nevertheless, Aktel could have taken this opportunity to set some sort of benchmark in crowdsourcing suggestions and getting users engaged in the rebranding exercise, which if rightly planned, could have taken some viral effect. Its interesting to note that all the comments, positive or negative, about Aktel or Robi is flying around nowhere else more but in social media and through the network effect, bad news is spreading faster for Aktel through the social network. See Aktel unofficial Facebook page for more brouhaha regarding Robi.
There is no denying of the fact that eye-brows might have been raised when Apple decided to call itself 'Apple' and started producing operating systems and computers. But it is to be noted that that is how they started, there has never been any rebranding involved (other than the logo) and consumers identify themselves with the company's products (iPods, Macbooks etc.) and personality more than they do with the brand name itself. Infact the product superiority and innovation has made 'Apple' sound like a renegade and trend-setter in its industry. Same with the case of Grameenphone's Djuice. Although it doesn't make much sense why a telecom product sounds like a fruit juice, they could affort that exercise on a child product brand targeting a certain market segment. Can we claim the same for Aktel or Robi? The lagging third player in the competitive mobile industry in Bangladesh is in the third position never because of its name. So its very unlikely that by putting up a different make up on a Sunday and renaming itself as Robi would be of much help.
I guess the mass consumers and citizens of Bangladesh are wary of renaming exercises. Unless there is no actual value added, or utility created in terms of consumption and the customer service that follows, all this would be futile. By the way, hats off to Asiatic and the baby elephant to pull it off Aktel's pocket real hard. Thank god its Monday today.