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What’s in a name?

The telecommunications market has seen many rebrands over the years. BT Cellnet rebranded as O2 to compete with Orange and Vodafone. Many companies, such as Verizon and Comcast, have repeatedly changed their logos over the years. These rebrands saw varying degrees of success, making them risky endeavours. Although met with initial hostility for the new brand name’s proximity to the symbol for oxygen, O2 has won over the UK public. When Comcast changed its logo in 2010, people were quite upset. The company has always had a horrible reputation for customer service — absurdly long wait times, impossible-to-cancel contracts — so people lamented how the company spent so much on its marketing and branding instead of improving its customer support infrastructure. Suffice it to say that rebrands garner a lot of attention, and the “all press is good press” saying is not necessarily true in the telecom industry. Now, in 2022, PPF, the telecom holding giant, is making a bold move by rebranding its recently acquired CEE operations (formerly Telenor in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia) as Yettel.

Backing it up

According to Mohamed ElSayad, Chief Commerical Officer at Yettel Hungary, “‘Yettel’ has no specific meaning; it will mean to customers what content and services we will fill [it with] in the future”. To us, the new name sounds decidedly Yiddish, and the reactions of Decision staff about the name change were quite neutral. Our marketing experts pointed out that given such neutrality, Mr ElSayad is correct with his assessment: Yettel’s perception in the CEE region will be based entirely on what the company does to build this brand.

To that end, they plan to innovate, and not just with words. Just one week after their rebrand on March 1, Yettel made its “virtual SIM card” available to every customer. Dubbed the “eSIM”, it allows people to connect their devices without the need to fiddle with a small plastic chip. So, customers no longer need to insert a traditional card into eSIM-enabled devices. Instead, Yettel customers can simply activate a QR code to connect their mobile phones, tablets, or smart accessories to the Yettel network. This “small” change has huge benefits for customers. In addition to eliminating unnecessary plastic use, eSIMs allow for near-instant installation and let people use multiple phone numbers on the same device. Perhaps most importantly, if the device is lost or stolen, the eSIM cannot be removed from the phone without the owner’s consent, so it can be tracked easily. Beyond that, eSIMs enable those devices that couldn’t be connected directly to mobile internet before to have a direct Internet connection.

It takes more than innovation to build a brand; sometimes, it also takes compassion. As such, Yettel is stepping up to help those displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to Mr ElSayad, “We are currently crediting the charges for international calls to Ukrainian telephone numbers; the same applies to roaming data, voice, and SMS charges for our customers in Ukraine. We provide more than 40,000 topped-up SIM cards for free to Ukrainian refugees, with unlimited mobile internet in Hungary on the day of SIM activation, 5GB of mobile internet and 50 minutes of domestic calls (to be used in 30 days), free international calls to base-rate Ukrainian phone numbers (until withdrawal) and free roaming in Ukraine (until withdrawal)”. It remains to be seen whether the Yettel brand will be successful in the CEE region, but the one-two step of innovation and compassion means that Yettel is off to a great start.