Brand Health Check: True - Is True making waves beyond a new name?

It'll take more than just a name change to win over fickle Thai consumers as True brings its services under one banner brand.

TelecomAsia rebranded itself as True in April this year in a 100 million baht (US$2.5 million) exercise that saw it paint the city red in a manner reminiscent of what its mobile subsidiary TA Orange did two years earlier.

The name was chosen to convey credibility, creativity, care and courage; the colour to represent a modern and forward-looking attitude.

The move to create a strong brand was not unprecedented in Thailand's highly competitive telecoms market. Almost three years earlier, cell phone operator Total Access Communication very successfully rebranded itself as DTAC - with D meaning 'good' in Thai. Later, AIS added Evolution behind its GSM Advance brand name. More important than the new name was True's intention to unify its various services under one brand, and to cross-market them. Besides being Bangkok's largest fixed-line carrier, True's businesses include TA Orange, ISP Asia Infonet, multimedia operator Asia Multimedia, and pay-TV company UBC.

The only provider of integrated communications services in Bangkok, True is in a unique position of being able to bundle its offerings. "This is a new paradigm of service, and the challenge is to create a total comprehension of the brand, which needs to be done gradually, one dimension at a time until you arrive at the total picture," said managing director Chaipranin Visudhipol, managing director of True's agency, TBWA.

In its first initiative, the company has launched an 'All Together Bonus' promotion allowing clients of its fixed-line, internet and data network services to redeem their bills for time on Orange mobile phones.

Meanwhile, True gained majority control over Orange in October, paving the way for the planned renaming of the brand as True Mobile, and for greater synergy in future marketing campaigns.

Market analysts expect the mobile operator to be at the center of any new promotions, with upcoming regulations expected to make it less expensive for cell-phone users to call within the same network. "Only for those with the largest subscriber bases will be successful," one noted.


Bryce Whitwam, Regional activation director Draft Thailand

The True launch campaign certainly took a page from the Orange handbook. In many ways it was Orange with a different hue.

Pure, ideological-based advertising was the core to Orange's successful launch in Thailand two years ago and it's probably not a surprise that True would follow in this path.

Likeable, touching advertising without direct product benefit makes consumers like your brand, but will they get married to it?

Matrimony cannot happen until consumers see what product or emotional benefit you have to provide to them.

The consumer may ask, "You're together, but what does it do for me?" Corporate advertising often fails to translate its internal advantage to a consumer benefit.

As for Orange, once a brand decides to leave, the marriage is over. It's tough to say goodbye to your loved one, but Orange has a one-way ticket out of Bangkok.

True's message of 'together' is a clever way of linking its fixed and mobile products into one, but will the consumer see the benefits?

Linking mutual services maybe the future of communications, but is Thailand ready for it? This is the biggest challenge for True.

Apirak Paul Apisarnthanarak, Account planning director, FCB Worldwide (Thailand)

Driving along the expressway around the Bangkok metropolitan areas, scanning through mainstream Thai magazines, and getting stuck in traffic jams behind tuk tuk taxis, there are plenty of opportunities to be exposed to the new corporate branding campaign of True. With its simple red-and-white colour scheme, True has captured the attention of Bangkok city people.

The name of the game is simple: re-branding (from Telecom Asia to True) and capitalising on its synergy. Under a 'True Together' tagline, True has done an exceptional job creating a new corporate brand image. It communicates a simple message with 'lifestyle' executions.

With the rapidly-changing competitive landscape in telecommunications, there is a greater value in brand building and going beyond just offering telecommunication products and services. This is critical for True to become one-stop hub for all of consumers' telecommunication needs.

However, the on-going challenge for True lies in how to really deliver its second task of materialising this synergy and relating its benefits to customers in the simplest way. Consumers must be able to realise the value-added experience and benefits deriving from this synergy - a true brand experience.


Whitwam's prescription

- Avoid linking products and services for the sake of "together". If it doesn't fit, then leave it be. The market will eventually catch up but it's probably not the right time now.

- Ideology advertising can only be effective if it's supported by clear links to product benefit communications. True needs to continue to hammer at both ends if it expects to build this brand.

- With any lost love, it's time to wipe off the tears and move on. You've got a new relationship with True.

Apirak's remedy

- First, capture customers: before becoming a one-stop telecommunication hub, consumers must first realise the real value of a product/service.

- Foster the True synergy: after capturing consumers, it's time to extend the value-added benefits and experiences derived from this synergy.

- Upgrade the experience: this is a fast-moving industry. Upgrading your customers' experience is a way to create more consumer's loyalty and increase your profitability


Advertising expenditure estimate

Unit: millions baht

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Advance Information Service 901.2 1,552.0 1,515.1 1,810.3 1,722.3

TA Orange 163.1 235.4 115.5 189.9 529.1

Total Access Communications - 49.2 807.9 497.7 526.9

True/Telecom Asia 528.3 970.3 798.8 906.8 976.2

Source: Nielsen Media Research

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