Globe Eats Humble Pie: Withdraws Tonino Lamborghini broadband modem from market

News site Interaksyon.com reports that Globe has withdrawn its Tonino Lamborghini HSPA+ modem from the market. Citing Globe spokesperson Yoly Crisanto, the site reports that Globe has “temporarily ceased marketing and selling the Tonino Lamborghini modem stick.”

This is in the aftermath of trademark holder Tonino Lamborghini s.r.l.’s continued objections to Globe’s use of their luxury goods trademark (used in everything from watches to boutique hotels – but not cars) in advertising that leads the public to believe it is connected with Automobili Lamborghini, maker of high performance automobiles.

“The usual Tattoo sticks are still available, just to be on the safe side with Lamborghini Italy. This should be fixed soon,” Crisanto has been reported as saying.

The Business Mirror likewise carried the story and quoted Ms. Crisanto as well.

Globe spokesman Yoly Crisanto confirmed the pullout. She said Globe temporarily ceased marketing and selling the cellular firm’s Tonino Lamborghini broadband stick which is enabled with High-Speed Packet Access-plus, or HSPA+, mobile technology “until we get the trademark issue sorted out.”

Evidently Globe is hoping for a speedy resolution of the case. But “just to be on the safe side” the reports have it  that they have halted sales to stop incurring the ire of the trademark holder.

Update: Reacting to the stories in Interaksyon and the Business Mirror, Newsbytes reports a statement from Globe corporate communications released Monday evening saying that the Tonino sticks are still available in selected Globe stores in Metro Manila.

Globe, however, said in its statement that Tattoo Tonino Lamborghini sticks are still available in selected Globe stores in Metro Manila.

“These stores are in areas with 4G coverage to date. Customers who wish to purchase the Tattoo Tonino Lamborghini sticks may visit http://www.tattoo.globe.com.ph to know the Globe store nearest them,” the statement said.

Pulling from the market sounds perfectly logical to me, but this may not be as simple as all that.

The withdrawal of Globe’s HSPA+ modem from the market, however temporary, leaves SMART Broadband’s “Rocket” modem as the sole HSPA+ broadband modem in the market.

Secondly, in its public statements, Tonino Lamborghini s.r.l. appears to be dead set on going after Globe.

A quick recap: The Italian-based Tonino Lamborghini has claimed that Globe is unauthorized to use its brand, calling it “a fake”. In response, Globe issued a statement claiming legitimacy by saying it obtained through the rights through Singapore-based licensee Primo Mobile. However, Tonino Lamborghini responded with a statement saying Primo Mobile was never authorized to sub-license the brand. Furthermore, Primo Mobile’s marketing agreement with Tonino Lamborghini had already terminated.

In addition, Tonino Lamborghini also claimed that Globe’s advertising campaign misled consumers by making a connection between Lamborghini automobiles and the Tonino Lamborghini luxury brand.

Vowing to “protect the brand” Tonino Lamborghini has promised to take legal action.

For a detailed chronology of this bizarre trademark brouhaha, check out the article on this blog, “Will the Real Lamborghini Please Stand Up?

In that post, I mentioned several possible theories about this obvious branding fiasco:

Theory #1: Heads will roll somewhere. Or there will be furious slapping of wrists. Ether in Singapore, or along Pioneer street.

Theory #2: There will be a lawsuit, or a number of them. Tonino Lamborghini will sue Globe. Globe will sue Primo Mobile. Primo Mobile will sue Tonino Lamborghini.

Theory #3: There will be a settlement, and it will be a big one. After all, trademark infringement suits can be more lucrative than licensing deals.

Theory #4: Regardless of how the lawsuits go, the Tonino Lamborghini brand will be withdrawn from the local modem market. The brand has now been tainted. The campaign will be withdrawn and there will be a major brand relaunch.

Now it looks like at least one of these theories may come to fruition. Globe will undoubtedly re-enter the market evetually. But as predicted, the Tonino Lamborghini brand has been tainted by controversy, necessitating a cessation of marketing activities.

It’s also safe to speculate that furious finger pointing has ensued at the telco’s offices on Pioneer street, the ad agency Harrison Communications, Singtel HQ in Singapore, and the offices of Primo Mobile.

Unless Globe comes to an amicable settlement with Tonino Lamborghini (highly unlikely considering their attempt to associate the luxury brand with the Lamborghini automobiles) the product will need to be permanently rebranded. This means halting all marketing efforts, rebranding the modems, creating a new advertising campaign, and replacing all existing merchandise materials. Overall, we foresee an expensive exercise for Globe ahead.

Globe launched the Tonino Lamborghini HSPA+ modem in June 2011. Assuming the campaign was officially halted in the last week of August, the product will have lasted on the market a little less than 90 days, marking this as one of the shortest-lived telco products in recent history.

If there is any inkling of doubt in Tonino Lamborghini’s claim that its brand has been misrepresented, check out the YouTube clip below, the original 30-second TV commercial created by Harrison Communications for Globe:

.

The commercial shows a driver behind the wheel of a black Lamborghini. 19 seconds into the commercial (fast forward to 0.19) the camera zooms into the Lamborghini logo on the hood of the car. Rather than displaying the correct yellow Automobili Lamborghini logo, the logo morphs into the red “raging bull” logo of Tonino Lamborghini. The logo then transforns into the Tonino Lamborghini modem.

Clearly Globe and the ad agency intended to associate the Tonino Lamborghini brand with the Lamborghini being driven by the “Tattoo-powered” driver Marlon Stockinger.

But Globe’s trademark troubles may not be ending soon. Over at Bonifacio Global City, right in the Bonifacio High Street area, a new car dealer is setting up shop beside the Audi dealership. The signage covering up the space points out “Lamborghini Manila – Opening Soon”.

The real Automobili Lamborghini is coming to town, and may want to protect its trademark from brand confusion as well.

If that happens, it may appear that the repercussions generated by this branding fiasco will continue to reverberate for some time to come.

Update:  In the light of Globe’s statement last Monday, I stand by this analysis of the situation. Time will tell how this will all play out, and these are the possible scenarios.

 

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