The Ooredoo brand was launched during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Ooredoo brand was launched during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Qatar’s incumbent operator, Qtel, rebranded as Ooredoo this week, following the introduction of the new brand identity at the group level during Mobile World Congress in February.

More than 2,000 people including ministers, ambassadors, media professionals, attended the rebranding event in Qatar, which was broadcast live on Qatar TV.

H.E. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani, chairman, Ooredoo, said: “We have always put our customers at the heart of our business, and this new name shows that we want to be closer to our customers and engage with them in everything that we do. We are proud that Qatar, where the business was born, is the first country in Ooredoo’s international network to integrate with the new global brand,” he said.

The operator, formerly known as Qtel Group, launched its new brand at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and while analysts generally welcomed the group’s plan to unify all of its opcos under one brand, others questioned various aspects of the launch.

Bhanu Chaddha, IDC's senior research analyst for telecommunications in the Middle East, Africa & Turkey, said that the brand unification was a step in the right direction. “If executed with precision, [it] will help the company to realise benefits in terms of sales and marketing synergies, as well as in brand positioning, specifically across markets with similar demographics and cultural ethnicity,” he said.

He added that this would be important given the telco group’s target to become one of the world's top 20 telecom operators by 2020. “It has taken significant steps to realise this objective, and has made a considerable number of international acquisitions. This has helped the company to grow from a single-market incumbent to a multinational operator with interests in 17 countries, serving close to 90 million subscribers across its three regions.

However, this growth has brought challenges in terms of managing multiple brands, Chaddha said. “The management of multiple brands results in the duplication of marketing resources and lower brand recall when the company expands further into adjacent markets. Therefore, IDC views the unification of brands as a logical step toward achieving company's 2020 objective.”

Ooredoo has twin objectives from adopting the new brand, according to IDC. “The prime objective remains to better connect with the next generation of digital customers, who are more inclined to use data services – this is in line with the evident change in telecom operators' business models globally, whereby telcos have transitioned from being voice-focused to data-oriented and are now moving toward digital services,” Chaddha said.

The signing of popular football star Lionel Messi as Ooredoo's global brand ambassador could help in this transformation, provided the company also focuses on the introduction of new and innovative products to better engage with customers, Chaddha added.

But IDC also warned that, given the recent introduction of mobile number portability in Qatar, Ooredoo could risk losing customers if any aspects of the rebranding were handled badly.

“At this stage, a poorly coordinated brand-change plan cloud leave customers confused, which may increase their propensity to turn to other operators,” he said. “However, this may also be seen as an opportunity to benefit from synergies in brand change and MNP sales and marketing activities. It will, therefore, be interesting to see how Qtel approaches it.”

However, one branding and marketing consultant, who preferred not to be named, was more critical of the way in which Ooredoo has handled the rebranding so far.

He questioned the operator’s decision to stage the initial introduction of the new brand in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress, when the company’s main customer base is in the Middle East. “The spectacular event they did in Barcelona was not publicised in the region, which was a missed opportunity,” he said. “They should have launched in Qatar first and then promoted it in Barcelona.”

The consultant, who has worked on large corporate rebranding projects in the region, also questioned Ooredoo’s decision to stagger the rebranding process throughout 2013 and 2014, rather than rebranding all of the opcos in one go.

In terms of the brand itself, the consultant questioned the colour scheme of the new logo, pointing out that the red and white colour scheme is “a common color among many operators”, including Vodafone Qatar. This could make it more difficult for the brand to stand out in some markets, he said.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW PHOTOS OF THE BRAND LAUNCH AT MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS