Netcom is the second biggest, as well as the first privately established, mobile operator in Norway (the phone company up to that point was government owned and operated). Established in 1989 and active since 1993, they have been largely responsible for the growth of the mobile market in Norway. Netcom is also responsible for the introduction of the iPhone in Norway. Last week NetCom released a new updated identity done by McCann-owned Scandinavian Design Group (SDG).
Although I have been unsuccessful in trying to obtain an official press release, NetCom has updated their website with their new logo and released ads to inform us (the consumer) about the new identity (one ad even pointing to the low development cost of the brandning compared to that of their their competitor, Telenor, which was done by Wolff Olins in 2006). And only brief commentary has been given by NetCom in the marketing journal Kampanje:
“We thought it was time to refurbish our logo. We wanted to keep the history and people represented in the logo. Both are key to what we deliver and the people behind NetCom. But it was time to freshen up the colors and expression.”
— Øyvind Vederhus, Communication Advisor, Netcom.
NetCom has had a slight advantage by being a relative underdog for a long time. As more providers have surfaced it seems as they are now in a position of trying to create a stronger link to Apple products. Norway being one of the countries with the highest percentage of iPhone acceptance this is probably not a bad idea. Witnessing the mobile phone boom of the 1990s I remember the launch of NetCom. Being the first challenger to telecom giant Telenor, they differentiated themselves early on visually and emotionally. Although I had no formal training in branding or design at the time I have to admit I never liked their identity. It has always reminded me of arts-and-crafts with a sort of depressing new-age vibe.
Comparing the old against the new, they have certainly taken a step in the right direction and moved on to a happier place. The colors are fresher and the type is cleaner, and represents the right move to further build their brand. However, it is difficult to accept the execution — even more so by the fact that it is done by SDG, whom I generally respect. Although my initial reaction was positive, I quite honestly thought this was a prank at first (probably triggered by the poor execution and the ad pointing out the low cost of the branding). The wordmark is OK even though there are some weird spaces, but the symbol looks like a poor sketch that somehow slipped through from production to market. There are odd connections, poor outline drop shadows, a hardly visible gradient, a red round line and crazy looking twins with helmet hair.
I am all for sticking to the equity of a brand, but I find myself itching to fix the illustration, remove the slight gradient and solve this one as a two color logo. As for the identity as a whole it is lacking consistency in imagery, iconography, typ0graphy and implementation. Good from far, but far from good! (Or should I say, OK from far, but far from OK?!).