LONDON: It was the brand revamp that was supposed to herald a “new journey into digital services” for Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications company STC.
But now, it would appear, at least for the company’s redesigned logo, the journey is not quite so fresh.
When STC unveiled its new logo with the slogan, “let’s go further,” the intention was to introduce a unified brand across the Kingdom, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Consumers initially praised the company’s new sleek look and generous offers, but that was short-lived for “the Middle East’s most valuable brand” as sharp-eyed social media users pointed out that the logo was almost identical to CTS’s, a US tech firm that manufactures sensors, actuators, and electronic components.
One Twitter user, Ahmed Amin, tweeted a link to the CTS main website and said: “Is it luck or bad luck? … Same mirrored logo.”
An advertising expert, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s just that the basic idea of the design, which is the deconstructed ‘T,’ is the same. The designer just changed the color.
“Then again, I see a lot of rip-offs in our business from television ad ideas to design, and even ideas and plots of drama series and music notes.”
Speaking at a launch event on Dec. 19, STC’s chief executive, Nasser Sulaiman Al-Nasser, said: “STC’s new brand identity marks a new journey in digital services we are embarking on to enrich the lives of our customers and employees.”
He stressed that the new brand was in line with the company’s progress in the digital transformation of payments, media, and entertainment, in order to keep up with the digital revolution and rapid changes in the communications and information technology sector.
Mark Daou, media studies lecturer at the American University of Beirut, told Arab News: “Although the treatment of the letter ‘T’ is similar, the variation of the font, colors, and use of a single color on the boxes on top of the ‘T’ can be considered enough variation to avoid the accusation of theft.
“I believe a serious discussion should be done between STC and its advertising agency or brand-identity agency to investigate the root of the logo which was suggested to the client and eventually adopted.
“If it turns out to be a carbon copy with aesthetic amendments from the CTS logo, then I believe measures should be taken,” he added.
STC is currently represented by several advertising and PR agencies, with notable ones including J. Walter Thompson (JWT) and Hill+Knowlton, the latter being the PR company that handled the communication for the brand’s relaunch press conference.
Although JWT MENA picked up an advertising Effie Award for its STC campaign “Roaming Puppet,” the firm’s head of corporate communications, Philippa Clayre, reiterated to Arab News that “JWT was not the agency behind the new logo design.”
While Hill+Knowlton acknowledged that they were the PR agency for the launch, they said it is against their policy to comment on behalf of their client.
“We were not involved in developing the brand or logo itself. It’s against our company policy and not appropriate for H+K to comment on the work of our competitors, commercial partners and clients,” Director of Operations at Hill+Knowlton in Saudi Arabia, Meshari Abokhodair, told Arab News.
STC did not respond to multiple inquiries for comment.
Tarek Ayntrazi, CEO of digital marketing network Generation C, told Arab News: “(Rebranding) seems like a waste of money in the case of STC as they did a new brand identity a few years ago. In a country where STC and Mobily capture 80 percent of the market, the struggle for brand identification is almost nonexistent as STC enjoys almost universal brand recognition in KSA.”
He added that the rebranding could be considered “more questionable” given that, according to Brand Finance, STC was one of the most valuable brands in the Middle East.
London-based digital marketing expert, Hazem Taha, said that the new logo “looks like it’s rushed, like it’s been done without much thinking or representing of the new Saudi community with the changes it is beholding. The new logo should be more focused on the positive changes happening over there … this is a disappointment.”
Twitter user, Shibin SSain, posted a tweet with a side-by-side image of the CTS and STC logos which said: “I mean, who does the research, testing and review before rolling these things out?!!”
Others on social media were quick to defend the company. One user tweeted: “Congratulations on the new logo … Copied or not, inspired or not, creative or not, overall you had a great year 2019. Keep it ongoing.”
STC has topped the MENA region’s digital companies by ranking 44th on Forbes’ list of the top 100 digital businesses around the world.