9Mobile: What’s in a name that makes this wrong?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Etisalat, the youth-centric mobile network that came with a lot of buzz in the hope of transforming the communications industry in Nigeria is no more.

After its problems with loans, debt financing and disgruntled Arab investors, what we now have is 9Mobile. The trading company, EMTS, had indeed tried to retain the brand name ‘Etisalat’ presumably to retain the confidence of its customers that nothing had changed. That request was turned down, so 9Mobile it is.

It is a name that has not really gone down well with many. While some opine that it does not sound ‘mature’ enough, others have made an association that the relationship between numbers four, one, and nine make the telcos name suspect. A different group just think it is too close to the names of many gambling sites.

No other mobile network in Nigeria, past or present, has made use of a combination of numbers and letters in its name. But does EMTS really care about the name? Of all the things that may have bothered them about this transition, it would not be possible to argue that a name was the most difficult to choose.

While they were Etisalat, there was the focus by the company to focus on Nigerianness. This focus, perhaps, led to their choosing the 0809 dialing code at inception, to make the phonetic connection between the sound from pronouncing the first two alphabets of ‘Nigeria’ and the number 9. Arguably, it made them easily relatable to young Nigerians; there was a flow to the Etisalat culture of “080 9ja for life”.

Whether or not they were delivering the service as desired by customers is a different matter (which is not necessarily particular to them).

9Mobile, by popular acclaim, is not the best of names in the industry right now, and it may take a while to catch on. It is a mistake to think that names do not matter, considering that the youth population are becoming more sensitive to identifiers.

That said, the new company will not fail because it is called ‘9Mobile’. If this were a piece of encouragement to them, there is a mobile telecoms company called T-Mobile; if 9Mobile is half as good, they may finally get a real deal with FC Barcelona and have their names on their team jerseys.

Names have weights, but there is no guarantee that anyone whose name is Festus will be first amongst equals. 9Mobile, do your thing.


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