Tech & Communications

Ooredoo and the power of ‘Q’

by  — 8 April 2013

With one of Qatar’s biggest and most recognised companies – Qtel - now rebranded to Ooredoo, The Edge columnist Kamahl Santamaria wonders if dropping the ‘Q’ is the right long-term strategy.

His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, chairman of Ooredoo, announcing the re-branding of the Qtel group of companies at the mobile world congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The rumours about Qtel going through some sort of rebranding had been around for a while.  

But it still came as some sort of surprise when the telecommunications company favoured by most in this country gave itself such a different name and look. Qtel is gone.  In its place is Ooredoo – which you quite possibly know by now means ‘I want’ in Arabic.  

Interestingly, the announcement was made not here in Qatar but at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – the biggest mobile communications gathering in the world.  The chairman of Ooredoo, HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud Al Thani, said the meaning of the word reflected the aspirations of the customers.  

And the thinking behind the rebrand is actually very sound. Qtel has controlling interests in not just Qtel Qatar, but Nedjma in Algeria, Tunisiana in Tunisia, Wataniya in Kuwait, Nawras in Oman, and Indosat in Indonesia. That adds up to nearly 90 million customers worldwide. The Ooredoo initiative will put all of those brands under one name, and reinforce the one Qatari company that they all have in common.

But there is no getting away from the fact that Ooredoo, as a word, does not exactly conjure up images of mobile phones and internet access. Now, in the end, that may not be a problem.  Ooredoo has a strong logo and branding, and there will surely be some major advertising campaigns to reinforce the new name and what it provides.

But more importantly, I think it is missing something.  Namely, the ‘Q’. Think about the big Qatari companies and brands – Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Airways, Qatar Foundation, Qatalum, QAPCO, Qatar Holding, Qatar Investment Authority.  It is easy to see what they all have in common. And more and more at an international level, a prominent letter Q is a good sign that a Qatari business is nearby.

If you are getting on a plane with a Q in its airline code, then there is a good chance you are flying Qatar Airways – though that is not to forget Australia’s national carrier Qantas. Even if you are doing something as simple and mundane as filling out an online form, there is only one country you can choose from the drop-down menu which starts with a Q.

The point I am making is that the letter Q has become such an important branding tool for companies and the country alike, and Ooredoo’s decision to abandon it will be an interesting test of how strong its Qatari heritage can come through internationally. The face of Ooredoo is also an interesting choice.

Qatari Olympic medalist Nasser Al Attiyah was on-hand in Barcelona for the branding announcement, and will be one of the new brand ambassadors. A great choice. But the other is the Argentinian football superstar Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona FC. Qatar’s links with Barcelona FC are obvious.  First Qatar Foundation, then Qatar Airways became ‘shirt partners’ (in other words, corporate sponsors) of the club, in what was a major break with tradition for Barcelona. And while I do not doubt the pulling power of Lionel Messi, he is ultimately an Argentinian playing for a Spanish club.  Is that necessarily the right combination to take Qatar to the world?

Of course all my doubts may be proven wrong by the time the international rollout of the Ooredoo brand is completed in 2014. But there is also no doubting the power of the Q, because few countries and businesses anywhere in the world can claim to get such recognition from one solitary letter.

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