Saturday, January 16, 2021

BTC accused of stealing Russia’s US$ 7 billion brand

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) was this week battling to contain a copyright scandal following reports that their newly launched mobile phone company ÔÇô Be Mobile ÔÇô has paid close to P2 million for brand and brand advertising material that may have been stolen from Russia’s leading Cellular phone service provider, VimpelCom, operating under the multi billion dollar Beeline brand.

BTC Public Relations Manager, James Molosankwe, on Saturday maintained that “we dismiss the allegations as unfounded and damaging. The BTC mobile brand is exceptional, unique, fresh and one of its kind. However, of late, we have been made aware of some similarities in the use of some elements in the teasers campaign.”

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information suggesting that the BTC ÔÇôBe mobile- brand and brand advertising creatives may have been plagiarized from that of the Russian mobile phone company VimpelCom’s Beeline branding and brand advertising.

VimpelCom was the first Russian company to list on the New York Stock Exchange and their Beeline brand is recognized as Russia’s number one brand with a value of more than US$ 7 billion.

Botswana’s third cellular phone service provider brand and brand advertising symbols bear an uncanny similarity to that of the Russian mobile company. The only difference is that while the Botswana company uses green and black dots in its creatives, the Russian company uses yellow and black stripes. For example, the Be Mobile brand is a green circle with black dots while the Russian Bee Mobile brand is a yellow circle with black stripes.
Be Mobile has been running a number of adverts showing a green and black spotted butterfly next to a caption saying “Be Free.” Similarly, the Russian mobile company has, in the past, run a brand advertising campaign showing a yellow and black stripped butterfly.

Be Mobile has also run an advert showing a pair of black flip-flop sandals with green dots while the Russian Cell phone company has, in the past, run brand adverts showing black flip flop sandals with yellow stripes.

Laine Barnard, the Group CEO of 8 Seconds, the company that was contracted to do the designs has also dismissed plagiarism claims saying no one can claim ownership of the butterfly and the flip flop sandals. Explaining away the spherical logo, Barnard said, “a lot of companies use sphere shapes for their brand logos, because they are soft, warm and approachable.” He went on to explain that the Beeline brand logo was created from “a bee that pollinates flowers” while the BE Mobile spherical logo has linked dots to symbolize communication.

8 Seconds Branding and Design is a leading branding company in South Africa and has made the top ten of Financial Mails branding companies.
Operating under the Beeline brand, VimpelCom has a cellular license portfolio that covers territory of approximately 240 million people. As of 2006, VimpelCom’s total number of subscribers exceeded 55 million, with over 48 million in Russia and another seven million in six CIS countries.
BTC Public Relations Officer, James Molosankwe, explained that 8 Seconds was chosen under a transparent and rigorous tendering process. Initially, BTC had its eyes on another branding company which was involved in the branding of DTC, but the company failed to meet the tender submission deadline. “Then the remaining companies were assessed and 8 Seconds was found to be the best. They are a very good company,” Molosankwe said.

BTC was this week trying to contain the internal commotion after news leaked that the BE mobile multi-million pula brand may have been stolen from Russia. BTC management this week warned staff against circulating e-mail messages on the brand theft allegations.

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