Deutsche Telekom has just launched an environmental image campaign (watch TV spot here) that’s debatable in several aspects.
Only the smallest slip is the campaign website at www.millionen-fangen-an.de. While the site puts Flash to a really beautiful use, a non-Flash version doesn’t even exist. Strange for the company that exclusively sells the iPhone here (which cannot play Flash). Plus, it makes sure that the substance and arguments behind the campaign are not accessible to friendly or unfriendly bloggers to link to. I don’t suspect any bad intent here, just the usual misunderstanding of the web as one-way channel on the side of marketing people. If I needed any more proof of that misunderstanding, it would be the complete lack of a back channel, in spite of all the trendy little Twitter, Facebook, de.licio.us and Digg icons; the sole purpose of which seems to turn me into a free ad carrier but God forsake not start a conversation. If this is an honest corporate endeavor, why do you dislodge it on a temporary landing page with a slogan domain name in the first place? Why do you deliberately make it smell like just a tactical image improvement plot driven by marketing and not backed by the company itself?
A bigger mistake is the campaign artwork that reduces people to model railway figures – the kind of toys that we are warned our toddlers could inhale -, which makes for an interesting look but doesn’t express a very polite attitude about the customer. The slogan which means “millions begin” can be (mis-?)read as further evidence of this attitude.
My big point of critique however is that they’re not talking about their dirt but mine. Not about what they do but what I should do. Firstly, I’m supposed to opt for online invoices to help save millions of pages of paper. I’d say that the environmental effect is at least debatable when millions of consumers switch to home printing (because they need the printout for the tax office, or just for their private book-keeping – it’s what people do). On the other hand, the cost savings are all on the side of the company, and they’re in the nine-digit scale. Next, I should download my music instead of buying CDs to save plastic, energy and CO2. I should return my old mobiles for recycling and I should also get a new DECT phone from DT because it consumes less power than previous generations. I should, I should, I should … what about you, Deutsche Telekom? Oh, you’re the ‘enabler’ of all that environmental friendliness of mine, I see.
If you dive into the Flash adorned substance of Deutsche Telekom’s so-called ‘Sustainability Initiative’, it gets pretty thin. Bottomline, there’s not much more to it than the understandable intentions of saving on invoicing costs and selling new hardware. The policy of taking back old handsets has been industry practice for years and doesn’t count for a ‘differentiator’.
To make the bucket look less empty, they’ve thrown in a few only loosely related topics like web-safety for children (supported by a 2 years old test award for their filtering software) or social audited supplier management.
Adding everything up, what is the net value of this campaign? The topic is too serious to add colour to the pale face of a telco giant. It could add credibility and responsibility and thereby build trust, but a lot of that has been lost in the execution as a superficial image campaign. And it could have done a lot to build relationships with concerned consumers – if response were welcome, or at least possible in any way.
What Deutsche Telekom customers would value even more than a sustainability initiative, however, will have to wait a little longer. A company that many of its customers perceive as a Darth Vader of service industries could benefit much more from an initiative centered around LISTENING.
In the meantime, what would they pay me for not using that Twitter button?
UPDATE: They didn’t, and I did.