Mobile TeleSystems (MTS)
New: Positioning, logo and tag line
Launched: 1 October, 2010 (date of
first news release)
Story in brief:
This is now Russia's most valuable brand (so declared
in the 2008 Financial Times/Millward Brown ranking, and
confirmed by Interbrand in 2010).
But just four years ago, MTS (which in cyrillic is MTC) was one
of four subsidiaries of Sistema Telecom. As such, it was assigned
the red version of the egg symbol that Wolff Olins designed to
anchor Sistema's color-coded 2006 rebranding (see
Evidently, the mobile child has outgrown, and has now consumed,
its hard-wired parent – earlier this
year MTS acquired Sistema (including its Comstar subsidiary ), and
now is apparently the sole surviving egg. (For the time being,
Comstar still signs itself with its blueWolff Olins egg, tightly
locked however to the new mother-egg button.)
In 2009, the MTS management team had adjusted marketing strategy
toward a "more open, technological and innovative" brand
positioning. They then saw their 2006 egg identity as a problem, and
commissioned BBDO's branding group to fix it. Creative Director
Mikhail Gubergrits confirms that the Wolff Olins mark, originally
intended to symbolize "simplicity and genius," was now seen "a bit
archaic and flat."
The design solution – retain the egg,
but replace its stark 2D power with "a high tech button, or computer
icon." The new egg itself is very lightly modeled, with a touch of
gray gradation. The MTC/MTS letterforms were "updated, becoming
In some applications, the red button symbol can be used (with red
letterforms) on a white or light background. The preferred version,
however, puts the button on a rectangular red box, with reversed
white letterforms – in which case the
box itself becomes a predominant visual element.
The addition of a tag line, in English "a step ahead," helps to
articulate the innovation promise.
C.E.O. - Mikhail Shamolin
C.M.O. - Mikhail Gerchuk, Chief Commercial Officer
Identity design -
Strategy: A legitimate use of
rebranding, to signal change. Beyond this, it's complicated (see
Design: Can a mark be too bold,
graphically too strong and simple? In my 2006 reaction to the
Wolff Olins egg design I wrestled with this –
and even more so later, when I was able to see it on signs and ads
in Moscow. Because of its stark, flat white presence it was many
times more vivid than anything around it. I thought "Wow - that's a
powerful mark. But what is its relevance?" (I can more readily
accept "apple" than "egg" as a sign of genius.) Was it too powerful?
More precisely, was its purely graphic power disproportionate to its
content - a mere egg?
If indeed that was a problem, the new design softens it. Both
visually and conceptually, the new mark is less intrusive
– a particularly revealing illustration
of the difference between 2D and 3D symbols. Where the 2006 symbol
jumped out, the 3D symbol visually recedes into its background,
becoming merely an object among objects. (And in this case, when it
is a red object on a red field it is further camouflaged.) A 2D
symbol is essentially a picture of an idea: it is conceptual, not
illustrative. And a 3D symbol is trying –
merely? – to be a picture of a thing. As
very general rules: sharp-edged, high-contrast 2D is visually
bolder than gradated 3D – and ideas
convey stature more effectively than things.
To bring this full circle: If 2011 is a good year for
Russia's most prominent brand to recede a bit, lowering its profile
– to be more about practical things than
almost-spiritual ideas (less egg, more button)
– then this is a creatively excellent rebranding.
I can't help wondering if a name change might not have been
considered too, to replace the inherent weakness of initials
(moreover, in the case of MTC, initials that don't travel well)
with a communicative name more global, unique and powerful.
the new Comstar signature...
(old egg, endorsed by new egg)
Latin version, with tagline in English...