Telecommunications firms face the considerable challenge of making complex technology accessible and attractive to ordinary customers. Almost all telecom firms have similar offerings: their brands have to be built on ease of use and superior customer service.

The first breakthrough brand in telecoms was Orange, created by Wolff Olins in the mid-1990s. From the start, Orange was about simplicity and friendliness. Its advertising, website, and brochures sported a minimalist look, with slender, orange type offsetting abstract, black-and-white photographs of everyday objects. The logo was a simple square. The design has since evolved and adapted, but the friendly, “different” ethos of the brand remains.

The first Orange shops, opened in the late 1990s, were designed according to the principles of feng shui—the firm originated in Hong Kong—and included tanks of goldfish for good luck. More recent shops are marked simply “Not Another Phone Shop.” Inside, the walls are papered with pictures users have taken with their phones. Customers are offered coffee and free phone cleanings or support to encourage them to visit regularly.

Wolff Olins is also responsible for the identity of BeeLine, a leading Russian cellphone brand. The name BeeLine is a play on words: a beeline being the shortest distance between two people, and “line” picking up on the Russian word for mobile phone, the first part of which also means “honeycomb.” The absence of naming cliches like “-tel,” “-cell,” “-com,” or “-net” set BeeLine apart from its competition.

BeeLine’s original look was created in 1993. The logo launched in 2005—an elegant, abstract combination of a bee and a globe—is clean and stylish. Compared with the old version, the new identity is sophisticated and worldly, and reflects service rather than technology. The redesign showed that the brand was responsive to customers’ changing expectations, and fitted the image they desired.

Many countries’ local mobile/cellular/ wireless brands have been taken over by global giants such as Vodafone, Orange, and T-Mobile. Unfortunately, the multinationals have focused more on financial gain than on brand insights, so each has struggled to build a meaningful worldwide identity that is persuasive to customers in the local markets. Not everyone wants to be part of a global colossus; some customers prefer their own, local identity and are no longer certain what to expect from their switched-over telecom brands.