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January 2010 | Volume 13 / Number 1
Feature Story

Cesare’s Way: Ericsson’s New Brand Guru Talks Shop

By: Paula Bernier

Ericsson management has tapped Cesare Avenia to drive the implementation of the company’s new brand strategy. INTERNET TELEPHONY Executive Editor Paula Bernier (News - Alert) recently spoke with Avenia, who retains his post as head of market unit South East Europe, about his new position as chief brand officer, which he assumed Nov. 9.

Tell us a bit about your professional background and what past experiences you can leverage as you implement Ericsson (News - Alert)’s new brand strategy.

Avenia: In addition to my different marketing positions in Ericsson both in mobile and wireless communications, I have taught industrial marketing at the university level here in Rome. Before joining Ericsson in 1994, I have had several positions dedicated to the telecommunications industry, working in companies like Italtel (News - Alert) and Alcatel. Since I have been heading our operations in different markets I have a good understanding of both operators’ and consumer needs.

How would you describe Ericsson’s overall strategy?

Avenia: Our strategy is very much to build on our leading portfolio in mobile and converged networks, services and multimedia. It’s the entirety of our strategy that is our strength, in particular the synergies to combine products and services. We can play a leading role in leading the development in tomorrow’s communicating world – where IP, broadband and multimedia create the possibilities for everyone to communicate, and on top of that all devices, machines, etc. [can communicate and be used to enable people to communicate]. And we can all contribute to a sustainable society.

Describe Ericsson’s branding strategy.

Avenia: A year-and-a-half ago we initiated the work to revisit the company’s brand strategy to better mirror the company of today, at the same time giving us the opportunity to better position ourselves for future business growth.

Both Ericsson, the telecom industry, as well as the world around us, are changing fast. Broadband is becoming part of our primary infrastructure and is paving the way for the intelligent society. Here, Ericsson’s vision of an ‘all-communicating world’ will be a reality.

Today we are in the middle of a technology shift to IP, our service business stands for approximately one-third of the total sales, and we have introduced multimedia as a business on its own merit. All together this creates new business opportunities. These changes require a revised brand strategy.

The branding strategy is very much [about] our innovation capabilities and our ability to bring sustainable value to all our stakeholders through the expertise of our employees. We believe that the outcome of what we do greatly improves people’s lives around the world, the way we all do business, and society at large... within four or five years maybe six to seven billion people [will] have a mobile phone, and three billion will have mobile Internet. Then you [have] tremendous coverage, and that will change our way of using communications – between people as well as machine to machine. All this will have a positive impact on sustainable development in the world.

Ericsson is one of the best known names in telecom. What are the company’s specific goals around branding?

Avenia: The goal of the branding strategy is very much to add value to the company’s core business, to support us to reap the potential of future business opportunities and create growth when our businesses are changing and renewing.

You mentioned the move from legacy technologies to IP. And in the release announcing your new title, Ericsson noted it is moving from being a hardware to a software business. These are two trends we’re seeing from major telecom and datacom vendors pretty much across the board. So what is Ericsson doing that’s unique on these fronts and how is/will the company communicate that through its branding strategy?

Avenia: Over the past few years Ericsson has further strengthened its position in IP and broadband by acquiring leading IP companies, headquartered in Silicon Valley. Ericsson in Silicon Valley, has become the center of the company’s important IP business We will continue to drive the convergence of fixed, mobile and Internet from Silicon Valley and to focus on strengthened partnerships in the areas of both hardware and software, Internet applications as well as in the PC industry.

Are there plans to change the Ericsson name or logo?

Avenia: Today’s introduction of Ericsson’s new visual identity, including a new version of our logotype, should be seen as symbolic gesture. The visual identity will create the base for how we communicate – it’s clearer, more colorful and points out the benefits we are creating together with our customers.

It’s a new but also additional logo that will live alongside the company logo we are all used to see. We are introducing a whole new visual identity, where the logo is ONE component.

Introducing a new platform is an iterative process that will run over a long period of time. In the end of the journey we hope to have almost 80,000 brand ambassadors in [the] shape of our employees, to carry the brand…

Outsourcing service provider networks has become an important new trend. What is Ericsson doing on this front and what is its messaging around that?

Avenia: Today our service business is our fastest growing business unit with several large managed services contracts, like the recent contract with Sprint (News - Alert), as well as with three Italy and three U.K. [customers]. But to manage customers’ networks is just one area. Services is an area also [including] consulting services, monitoring of networks, 24/7 support, integration of systems and new services, design, planning and network rollout. Today the service area stands for 30 percent of Ericsson’s total turnover.

Ericsson is No. 1 in this area, with a market share somewhat over 10 percent. Today we have around 37,000 employees working in the service area.

Still several operators continue to manage much of what we identify as services, so we have a potential here. Everyone is looking for efficiency improvements and business growth, and that is where our service offering can contribute. In the fast-moving telecom environment, it becomes harder to secure competence levels, but here we have a good platform since we are developing hardware and software as well as services.

Also the service business creates additional network infrastructure business and vice versa.

Low-cost solutions from some of the new infrastructure solution providers out of Asia have garnered a lot of attention recently. Can you comment on how Ericsson is combating these competitors.

Avenia: We have been facing competition since we started the company back in 1876. It’s nothing new for us, and it keeps us on our toes. We continue to build on the strengths with have in our global presence; with operations in over 175 countries; our technology leadership with approximately 20,000 granted patents worldwide; and [our] No. 1 position in services. Then we always have to be efficient in everything we do and drive innovation in both business and technology dimension.

Through what mediums will Ericsson relay its branding message?

Avenia: Our focus is very much on [continuing] to create enthusiasm in the company around the change and brand drivers in all parts of the organization. [We] are working to create awareness and engagement in the new brand strategy. We are a large company with well-identified customers that we interact with on a daily basis, especially within the services organization, and it is a key insight for us that a strong brand is built from the inside and that our employees are the main brand carriers toward our customers.

Then also our marketing communications strategy is to continue to build on digital activation, and we will focus even more on exploring the possibilities with digital media instead of working with traditional channels like TV commercials.

Then there are a few key industry events that we will continue to invest in. IT

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