Creating New Zealand's Telecom

Bringing a cloudvision to life

Telecom’s spark logo puts telecommunications back in the hands of New Zealanders, the result of a massive project by Designworks and one of the country’s leading telecommunications marketers.
Having come back to New Zealand to head up Telecom Retail’s Marketing and Brand division, Craig Herbison arrived midway through Designworks’ efforts and eventually redirected the whole project.
For Designworks directors Michael Crampin and Sven Baker, walking into Telecom was like walking into a design vacuum, after Telecom Retail Chief Executive Alan Gourdie asked them to rethink the telco’s image.
Crampin says design thinking at Telecom was fragmented and patchy.
“When we arrived there was no fixed design culture in place; it was campaign led.”
The challenge, which they were to discover would take years, was to build a toolbox of elements that would transcend the campaign approach Telecom was used to and create continuity for the brand.
“The first thing we did was to put everything in rehab, strip it back,” Crampin says.
The directive was to translate a business strategy into a brand strategy, bringing in the mechanics of the brand and creating a design identity strategy to enhance the existing focus on technology first.
The issue was simply that Telecom is a monolith. The business is vast, and the essence of the true Telecom customer experience was buried somewhere in all that.
“It was a bit like trying to find the meaning of life, or solve the Da Vinci Code,” Crampin says.
When Herbison stepped into the fold in early 2009, Designworks had come a long way in peeling back the layers.
“By the time we started working with Craig we had everybody working on a white page, so it was a good place to start.”
Which was exactly what Herbison wanted. A restart.
“To be candid, when I walked in there they had done the job. Michael and the guys had done a lot of work. I just started asking a few questions and felt that we had not entirely cracked it.”
Seven years of experience in the telecommunications sector and coming from the largest global provider Vodafone, Herbison had some ideas about where Telecom needed to be. And he was certain Designworks was still the right partner to achieve that.
Going back to the beginning is hard to swallow, Herbison admits, but in such a mammoth project it can make all the difference.
“A lot of agencies would have walked away at that point. We probably emptied Designworks doing that, but I was convinced they had it in them to do it.
“They came back in a short space of time with some unbelievable stuff.”
Crampin describes the newcomer as “agent provocateur” and distinctly remembers Herbison’s strategy for the way forward.
“Put your feet in the clouds first then get your feet on the ground.”
Herbison’s cloudvision was to “change this from Telecom New Zealand to New Zealand’s Telecom.”
Crampin says over the years the focus had become too much about Telecom, the corporate ego and what they delivered. “It’s like banks, people don’t care; they just want to know what they can do themselves.”
Between Herbison and the Designworks team the question was asked again and again – “What is Telecom all about?”
The theme of giving the brand to the customer became a clear frontrunner. With rival 2Degrees just entering the market, Telecom was New Zealand’s own or rather “zero degrees” from its customers, Crampin says.
Creating that emotional connection with Kiwis was the crux of bringing the brand along with the technological and corporate leaps the company was taking.
“The agenda of transformation of the business was ahead of the brand,” Herbison says, reflecting that the new brand was a brave move in Telecom’s most challenging period of change ever.
“We’d just invested millions on the XT launch and our brand was tracking down a point a month. We launched the new brand in October and we were up three points immediately.”
The positive shift was encouraging, and even through the subsequent XT outage crisis the new look held its own with customers, Herbison says.
“The brand slipped one point but it has since held. You can’t put that down to anything but the rebrand.”
Now out of Telecom, Herbison looks back at Telecom and sees a “world class” brand in a commodity industry changing alongside customer perceptions.
“The brand is a character on a journey, it is always going to change. It has to be real difference the customers see. The second hurdle is do they care about it? It’s only by finding that that you get emotional differentiation. ”
Continuing the journey for Telecom, Designworks is behind their Auckland “four tower” fit out design and Crampin sees the thinking Herbison injected into the rebrand staying put in the evolution of one of New Zealand’s biggest brands.
“He is not conventional marketer. He challenged the convention of branding, even what a design company like Designworks could be.”