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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Broadband and MVNOs - the branding & differentiation paradox

How many brands do you have a strong connection with? Favourite TV channel? Make of car? Supermarket? A couple of designer clothing labels? Football team? Frequent flyer consortium?

I'll guess half a dozen, plus another few that you have billing/commercial connections to - your bank, your mobile operator, your fixed/broadband company, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft.

Now, consider that various of these launch MVNOs, or white-label broadband connectivity. Which one do you choose?

Here's the paradox. If it's "branding lite" with few extra services & add-ons, it doesn't matter that much. It's whichever catches your eye at the appropriate time. Basically, it's dressing up something commoditised in a colour you like. You pick one, but don't spend much extra as the service is basically the normal one.

But if it's fuller branding "experience", with a lot of unique differentiated value-adds in terms of content or commerce, which of your favourite brands do you choose? That's the problem - as long as they're not too expensive, you'll want two or more. You don't choose between your favourite airline and your favourite football team, if tickets for both are cheap.

So there's the paradox - if you can really differentiate a branded technology experience, you'd better be prepared to share it & deal with messy interoperability issues.

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