Is Stelios faking colour-blindness?

So Stelios Haji-Ioannou is seeking to move into telecoms, and to bring his “easy” livery with him, meeting fierce opposition from Orange. Haji-Ioannou has been characteristically brash in dismissing the opposition, claiming big business’s fear of competition is Orange’s real problem.

This is surely false naivety on his part. The colour orange is strongly associated with “easy” branding in the airline business, and of course within the internet café and car-hire extensions, but in telecoms there is bound to be conflict. The core proposition of “easy” contrasts strongly with

that of Orange, which has built brand loyalty in telecoms based on service, product innovation and staying ahead of the game in a fast-moving market.

The brand built up by Orange is closely interwoven with its iconic (and holistically applied) brand identity and marketing strategies, to which the distinctive colour is absolutely central: it’s difficult to think of a brand with a closer visual and linguistic connection. And as most marketers should recognise, when it comes to consumers, brands are recognised rather than read. In the UK telecoms sector, the colour orange means Orange the brand.

Haji-Ioannou would be foolish not to recognise the potential for a positive “rub-off” effect on his brand. Conversely, these can only be negative associations for Orange, which has invested long and hard in becoming the brand it is today. In terms of Orange’s business, orange is not just a colour, but a central plank in an iconic brand – and it needs to be defended fiercely.

Don Williams

Chief executive

PI Global

London W11

Cover Story, page 24

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