How EE hopes to make staff its key marketing asset

An Orange or T-Mobile employee will have been forgiven for being a bit confused about who they worked for in the two years since the companies merged to form Everything Everywhere. Now the company – which has been rebranded as EE – is taking strides in its internal communications strategy, not only to educate employees about the propositions from the new joint brand and corporate entity, but to immerse them in it to convince them they are working for the “best” operator in the market.

Olaf Swantee
Olaf Swantee appears in holographic form at the EE Live employee event.

This week EE is running its biggest ever employee engagement push, inviting around 15,000 staff to the NEC in Birmingham to “experience the new brand”.

After witnessing hologram versions of their CEO Olaf Swantee and the rest of the board introducing the new “playful, purposeful and fun” brand, staff were then unleashed on a series of experiential activities that were meant to be symbolic of EE’s new values and propositions.

Activities included a 30-metre sprint race to see if staff could beat the speed of 4G, a whack-a-mole type game with the 10 4G launch cities superimposed on the playing board, silent disco dancing to represent the ease of media streaming and a giant motion-controlled Fruit Ninja app.

Olaf Swantee told journalists at EE Live that the company took the decision to run the event in a series of sessions, rather than one huge conference or simply in-office meetings, because it wanted employees to have time to engage with the brand in a fun way and also to talk to each other while doing so.

Judging by the #eeland hashtag for the event, employees reciprocated EE’s “fun” brand messaging. Many posted Twitpics of smiling faces taking part with the hands-on elements of the day and the sentiment of the tweets were resoundingly positive.

EE logo

EE will hope employees retain their smiles in-store at launch day on 30 October, by which time all T-Mobile, Orange and Everything Everywhere shops will have been dramatically transformed to become EE outlets.

Store windows will no longer be obstructed by huge advertising posters from phone manufacturers, instead they will be clear so passers by can look right in. If they pop inside they may well be offered a cup of coffee and free WiFi to work or socialise – and they will be attended to by EE’s fleet of “experts”.

Every member of store staff will be an individual “expert” for each operating system customers assign themselves to. And while they’ll still be encouraged to sell product, EE says they will also be responsible for helping consumers learn what they can do with technology.

If the moves were beginning to sound reminiscent of Apple’s store strategy, the similarity is heightened further in the way EE plans to engage with its staff digitally.

On 30 October EE will launch its own bespoke internal social network: Splash.

Lynne Arrowsmith, EE’s head of internal brand and communications, told Marketing Week: “Splash will bring together the best of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It’s built around collaboration as we are building a team of experts within our business.”

She described one element of Splash as being like Apple Forums, where customers or staff post a question and receive answers almost immediately from an employee. Staff can also view a live and unmoderated news feeds about the EE business – curating internal news with EE stories from external media outlets – as it bids to make the business feel more “open”.

Other changes include sprucing up EE’s corporate offices to be a little more colourful and making some of the fun gaming elements from EE Live permanent fixtures at its base in Paddington. It will also introduce a more flexible working policy and hot desking culture.

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

EE is taking strides to make its company a whole, rather than the sum of its two legacy brands. It hopes to begin to erase divisions so that staff working in the Orange store in Newcastle that are currently competitive with the T-Mobile shop across the road actually start collaborating with their former rivals to do business better.

Not only is it trying to build a more collaborative culture and a model of expertise but EE is also looking to evoke a sense of “fun” beyond its consumer-facing advertising campaigns. EE sees its prize marketing asset as its staff, which it is hoping will be more reminiscent of cool, friendly Silicon Valley geeks than the lacklustre reprobates brilliantly documented by E4 comedy series Phone Shop.

While EE has a task on its hands of educating consumers about its new brand and the benefits of a 4G network, it arguably has an even bigger challenge to communicate to its staff – who may still hold its Orange and T-Mobile brands dear and the consequent rivalries that come with that loyalty even closer to heart – that they should invest their time and energy in making the EE launch a business success.

The steps EE is taking shows it is clearly investing its time, energy and marketing budget in the hope of wiping away any lasting confusion or animosity between its staff ahead of the launch of its new brand.

As Steven Day, EE’s chief of brand and communications, said (in hologram) at EE Live: “This is not just about a change of a name or a logo or the way things look; this is about changing the way we think and what we do.”

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