April 2010


Strange Branding Decision: Auf Weidersehen T-Mobile in Germany

I’ll readily admit that I’m not a branding expert, but it seems to me that if you’ve got a global brand that works in multiple countries, you don’t mess with it. McDonald’s is McDonald’s in every country it operates in; Coca-Cola stays Coca-Cola in the deep South and in deepest Africa; and British Airways doesn’t change its name depending upon the country it’s flying to.

It’s also why, I presume, that when T-Mobile bought VoiceStreams, they almost immediately rebranded it T-Mobile (this is in the United States). T-Mobile has also rebranded Ben to T-Mobile (Netherlands). The brand also exists in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovakia, and, for now, the UK.

My favorite encounter with the T-Mobile brand was in the US, shortly before I moved to Germany back in 2004, and I blogged about it then, but here it is again:

I called T-Mobile to cancel my mobile phone service in the USA since I am moving to Germany. The lady was very nice, and I made an off-the-cuff remark that I had already signed up with T-Mobile in Germany.

The woman said, “They have T-Mobile in Germany?”

Now the funny thing is that although T-Mobile is still the functional selling brand in Germany, it no longer appears on my phone.

Two days ago I got an SMS informing me that T-Mobile and T-Home were merging and that shortly my phone’s network display would stop reading “T-Mobile” and start reading “Telekom”.

Honestly, I don’t get it: why would you mess with a globally recognizable name like “T-Mobile” and replace it with a local generic name like “Telekom”? It seems to me that T-Mobile benefits by having a common name across multiple territories. Certainly when people roam and they see the name T-Mobile on display in their mobile phones they are probably more relaxed and likely to pay for roaming calls than if the display says “RIPUOFFcom”.

But what do I know?

Apparently we don’t have T-Mobile in Germany.

6 comments to Strange Branding Decision: Auf Weidersehen T-Mobile in Germany

  • If you have T-Mobile in the US and travel to France, you get Orange (which I think is a subsidiary of T-Mobile). But I usually buy a local SIM and pay local rates. I could be wrong but I think T-Mobile is a German company.

    • T-Mobile is German–no doubt–ultimately owned by Deutsche Telekom. However Orange is a subsidiary of the French telephone company, France Télécom.

      Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom have recently agreed to merge their UK mobile operations, which is why I said T-Mobile exists in the UK, for now.

  • I think by changing their branding so often the Telekom is trying to force fans of FC Bayern to buy new fan uniforms every year. This year the logo is “T-Home”, next year it will be “.T…”. They’d probably change all the branding to just “T” except they can’t get a trademark on a single letter.

    “Telekom” is kind of retro. No problem for me as long as they don’t start sending out bills for “Gebühreneinheiten” again. 🙂

  • I wonder if there are tax reasons for splitting up and merging together and splitting those subsidiaries up again. We’ve seen that sort of thing time and time again with the DB and Deutsche Post / DHL and the German electronics conglomerate I used to work for. With DB and die Post / DHL I don’t know if it’s a tax motivation, but in my company’s case it certainly was.

  • PapaScott – Well, if it’s making FC Bayern fans spend more money on useless paraphernalia it might not be so bad.

    cliff1976 – If it’s not for tax reasons, it’s probably because they hired new consultants who’ve convinced them that they need to do this to remain competitive. The consultants then get paid and awarded for correcting the poor decisions of previous consultants. In a year they will hire new consultants who will discover the value of the T-Mobile brand ans urge them to bring it back to the German market and six months later, Handys in Germany will again say “T-Mobile” on their displays.

  • Reko

    I think I know who is behind all this: the Tele-Kommunists!