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Telkomsel CMO on being more than just a telco: 'The perfect timing for a rebrand'

Telkomsel CMO on being more than just a telco: 'The perfect timing for a rebrand'

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Telkomsel has undergone a brand refresh for the first time in 26 years. According to CMO Rachel Goh (pictured left), the telco has evolved with the times and is no longer just a connectivity company but one that has entered into several strategic partnerships and investments in eCommerce, ride-hailing, and OTT. The company even threw its weight behind Indonesia's esports ecosystem by launching the Dunia Games League in 2019.

The rebranding journey began last year with VCCP being appointed to handle the initiative. According to Goh, it was "the perfect timing" for the rebranding and in fact, Telkomsel wished it had done so earlier. "We are at the juncture of digital transformation and we have been going into new businesses beyond telco for the last five to 10 years. These include movies, videos and games. Telkomsel is moving away from just being a telco to a digital company," she explained to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE in an interview. Over the past year, it collaborated with Halodoc to enable Telkomsel consumers to access telemedicine services on the latter's app and invested an additional US$300 million on Gojek in May this year. Earlier this month, it officially launched its 5G service in Indonesia and has since expanded it into Bandung, Batam, Denpasar, Makassar and Surabaya.

According to Goh, Telkomsel is moving beyond digital connectivity towards platforms and services. "To our employees and the market, this is a very deliberate and radical step that we are taking. We want to show that we are moving in a different direction so the rebranding was the best time for us," she explained. Aside from VCCP, Telkomsel also worked with SomeOne, Good Relations, H+K Strategies, Romp, Fjord, iDac, AMP, OMD, and MD Media for the rebranding.

Batik-inspired font and the importance of merah putih

Telkomsel's new font, Telkomsel Batik Sans, was inspired by the batik design and created especially for Telkomsel by Deni Anggara from a Bandung-based graphic design studio named Degarism Studio. "There are thousands of batik designs from different islands and different ethnic groups. We went through all of them and thought 'What is the one thing that unifies them all'? There is this very unique curve and bend which is fluid like a dance movement. That was how we developed our font," Goh explained.

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It also moved away from having all the alphabets in upper case and capitalising only the "T" instead. "We have a relationship with people, and we have to have human connections and feelings. Therefore, we changed it so it feels more approachable, warm and welcoming, instead of coming across as yelling at you. The logo is not just a rubber stamp anymore, it's also a visual language," Goh said.

As a national brand, Telkomsel sees itself as "the flag bearers" of Indonesia and as such, its new logo still retains the iconic red and white colours that are also on the Indonesian flag. That said, the company also added a secondary palette which includes tumeric yellow, dark red, navy blue, grey and black. Goh said the tumeric yellow conveys a sense of optimism, warmth and fun while navy blue gives the feeling of trustworthiness, integrity and reliability.

"We have also added grey and black so that when all the colours come together, our expression of the brand becomes more lively and relevant and reaches to more segments of consumers. We want to show that we will serve everybody regardless of their background," she said.

At the same time, it also introduced the shape of a portal to its new branding. Like the font, the portal was also inspired by batik and is surrounded by a glow, as if beckoning consumers to enter into a world filled with possibilities and opportunities. "The glow is reminiscent of the smile on consumers' faces and we want to remind people how beautiful they look when they are engaged in another world," Goh said.

telkomsel rebranding portal 2021

Aside from the logo, Telkomsel has also changed its photography style, moving away from posed shots. Instead, the company wants to showcase more authenticity in its marketing assets by capturing sincere moments such as friends huddled together looking at something on their phones, people working together or even playing together.

Additionally, it is also looking to be more inclusive in its marketing by showcasing individuals from all walks of life, such as a grandmother from a rural town learning a TikTok dance and showing off her moves. "We try to capture moments like that of Indonesians, who have been open to embracing technology without even realising they have embraced digital. We changed our photography and video style to let people know that in times of pandemic, life still goes on and there are still smiles on their faces," she explained.

Simplified brand architecture

To simplify the brand strategy of all of its services, Telkomsel has changed its multi-brand approach to a monolithic brand. Where in all communications to customers, the Telkomsel brand will become stronger and more prominent. One example is the simplification of the simPATI, Kartu As, and Loop into one name – Telkomsel Prabayar. This came about after it carried out an intensive audit with Telkomsel's founders, consumers and retailers. 

"The Telkomsel brand was clear, they knew what we stood for but there were plenty of products beneath it. Hence, one of the big things we changed about the brand architecture was going from a company with multiple brands to a monolithic brand," she explained. Additionally, it has also unveiled its new brand values: integrity, purposeful, empowering, and exciting.

A celebration of global and local coming together

For Goh, the brand refresh is a celebration of how global and local working together, something which she has never witnessed in her 23 years as a marketer. When the telco first worked with R3 for the shortlist, Goh said it wanted to collaborate with the best agency names in the world and not just in Indonesia. The reason being, it was not only competing with telcos in Indonesia but also with those around the world. 

"I asked Shufen Goh and her team from R3 to show me the best in the world and they shortlisted 25 for us. We went through about a three-month journey doing interviews, chemistry meetings, and technical discussions," she said. According to her, the team learnt a great deal throughout the process and arrived at the conclusion that while it can get the best ideas from around the world, it still has to work with local producers and the brand still needs to be uniquely Indonesia. For example, while the storyboard for its TVC was done out of Singapore, it was produced by Indonesian film director Joko Anwar. 

Likewise, the lyrics for its new theme song "Memilih Aku" were done in collaboration with Yovie Widyanto, Arsy Widyanto and Tiara Andini. The lyrics and melody of the song illustrate Telkomsel’s gratitude to Indonesia for choosing Telkomsel for 26 years and reaffirms the brand's commitment to be there for the nation.

Meanwhile, to stay true to its identity, Indonesian instruments such as the angklung and gamelan were incorporated in the new theme song. At the same time, electric guitars were also used to showcase the contemporary side of Telkomsel. Tying the whole theme song together is an aria and Goh said the full combination of instruments and singing is emotionally uplifting. According to Goh, music and sound are "even more powerful than colours" as they are able to invoke certain emotions. To effectively forge a relationship with consumers, Telkomsel understood that sound played a pivotal role in this.

Telkomsel also created different variations of its five-tone sonic branding "Dari Telkomsel" together with Amsterdam-based sonic branding agency AMP, from a singing version to a guitar version. This makes it applicable for different occasions and to individuals from all walks of life.

"These are examples of how beautiful a global and local collaboration can be. I have never seen this before," Goh said. This, however, is only the beginning as Telkomsel is working on firming up its experience branding at its retail stores. From the way employees smile to how they greet customers, all these will change, said Goh, who added:

The brand is not just a logo, it is an experience and a relationship.

At the end of the day, Telkomsel's rebranding seeks to further strengthen its vision and mission in opening up all opportunities for the community to be able to #BukaSemuaPeluang (#MakeThingsHappen), by maximising their potential in all aspects of life through unlimited possibilities. 

Telkomsel's president director, Hendri Mulya Syam (pictured right), said the telco wants to constantly bring a new spirit that will be reflected in all commitments and the development of its business lines. "This new Telkomsel will also open up various opportunities and possibilities for the effective use of the latest digital technology with cross-sector collaboration that can further empower every line of life of the nation, now and in the future," Hendri added. Separately, Telkomsel is the regional associate of Singapore's Singtel.

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