EE launch casts doubts over Orange and T-Mobile brands

Everything Everywhere’s rebranding to EE and the launch of a new consumer facing 4G network brand with the same name has cast doubts over the long term viability of the Orange and T-Mobile brands in the UK.

EE Brand Video
A still-frame from EE’s brand concept video

VIDEO: Steven Day, EE’s chief of brand and communications, explains the thinking behind the new brand.

The EE network will launch in 16 cities by Christmas, giving customers access to its “superfast” 4G technology for mobile internet and “a more reliable connection” for making calls and texts. The company aims for 98 per cent of the UK to have 4G coverage by 2014. A fibre optic fixed line broadband service will also run under the EE brand.

The launch will be backed by a major marketing push across all media that will focus around the proposition of “now you can”, underlining the speed of its new services. This activity is being created by Saatchi & Saatchi, while Wolff Olins advised on the original branding concept.

The company has invested £50m in rebadging its 700 Orange and T-Mobile UK retail stores and retraining staff to have knowledge on its three different propositions. Existing customers of the two networks will see the “EE” name appear to where they usually see “Orange” or “T-Mobile” next to their signal on their devices.

Current Orange and T-Mobile customers will be offered an “easy route to upgrade to EE”, the company says, although they can choose to remain with their current plans.

Industry experts have suggested all these moves suggest an intention to migrate all Orange and T-Mobile customers to EE in the future once the 4G network is more widely available across the UK. EE says 98 per cent of the UK will have access to its 4G network by 2014.

Olaf Swantee, EE’s chief executive, insisted at the launch event today (11 September) that EE will “stand alongside” Orange and T-Mobile as a separate customer facing brand, but telecoms experts are questioning for how long this will be possible.

Orange, which is considered the more high-end of the legacy brands and is positioned around the pay monthly market EE will target, could be at particular conflict with the new brand, according to Kester Mann, product manager at CCS Insight.

Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms and Media, says the EE launch is analogous with VW’s multibrand strategy, which has a similar “technology engine” that underpins its house of brands. However, there is a “strong risk” of consumer confusion between the three Everything Everywhere brands, which could ultimately lead to their consolidation.

He adds: “It’s easy to identify [the differences] with a physical car brand you can touch and feel, but it’s harder to rebrand a mobile network – not many people even know what Everything Everywhere was, so it might be difficult to explain how EE builds on an existing network.”

One industry insider told Marketing Week the fact that EE is the new name of the Everything Everywhere corporate entity as well as the consumer-facing 4G network is a move aimed to branch out more clearly from Orange and T-Mobile’s shareholding companies [France Telecom and Deusche Telekom] as a separate unit that would be more open to privatisation.

The source, who asked not to be named, said: “This is more than just a branding exercise. Olaf is trying to focus around one clear strategy that lines up from top to bottom.”

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