In recent weeks, Orange has launched a big push to rejuvenate its public image. The ‘I am’ campaign has been on the cards since Tom Alexander arrived as CEO, bringing with him a new former-Virgin management team – and big expectations that he would recapture the glory days of the past.
Orange’s new campaign comes a matter of months after O2 refreshed its own brand, ditching the famous ‘See what you can do’ slogan that it had relied on since its launch.
The world is now a far less simple place than when Orange and O2 launched. New technologies are coming into play and operators must position themselves to make their mark in a fuzzier world of cellular, Wi-Fi, mobile internet and fixed-line broadband.
The efforts of these pioneers will be watched eagerly, for others will also soon be treading this path.
What is at stake is more than just another ad campaign, but the need for all mobile companies to reinvent and reposition themselves in a fast-changing communications landscape.
The stakes are particularly high for Orange, where the new campaign will, in some people’s eyes, be a litmus test for the impact of the new management team. Alexander knew when he became CEO that one of his biggest tasks was to bring back the lost sparkle to Orange. But he was equally aware that what the brand represents is not in the rude health it once was.
A few years ago Orange consistently topped JD Power’s customer satisfaction ratings, but it has now plummeted to the bottom. One of the more tangible goals the CEO has given himself and the management team is to top the JD Power customer satisfaction chart again by 2010.
Orange has been very vocal about the complete brand overhaul by talking to the industry, and has tried to demonstrate its determination and direction.
The first glimpse of Alexander’s vision for resuscitating the brand is represented in the new ‘I am’ advertising campaign that the operator launched a few weeks ago. But not everyone is convinced that this is the right way to go as the new campaign lacks a clear message on what the brand is aiming to represent.
Mobile canvassed a variety of senior players, from operators and retailers to marketing experts. The general opinion from industry insiders that Mobile spoke to was that the ad tries to appeal too hard to the viewers’ emotions and lacks a clear message of what it offers. It leaves them confused about company’s proposition.
The ad covers the main character’s relationships as he describes them and how he is related to each of these people. The Orange logo is shown at the end, but the viewer is left confused about what the connection to the operator is.
One former Orange insider says: ‘It’s a lovely arty message, but what are they trying to achieve? Here are all these people that have made me what I am, so what? There should be a campaign that says this is how Orange helps me to be what I am.’
The ad hasn’t had a warm reception from the advertising community either. Campaign, a marketing industry trade magazine, gave the ad the ‘Turkey of the Week’ title, for the worst new ad of the week.
Customers have little brand loyalty to mobile operators, so ads that have the sole purpose of building the brand rather then having a clear proposition or call to action are less likely to work.
One advertising expert says: ‘It doesn’t fit the mobile industry, because it’s a market with little brand loyalty and you can’t really connect with the ad. I don’t think this is going to work.’
Orange has been criticised from a few corners of the industry for not having a clear direction or message explaining what the brand stands for. The operator seems to jump from one idea to the next with no apparent long-term vision.
This has resulted in a major lack of consistency in the operator’s brand message. Orange has gone from showing itself as a hard-nosed, cash-hungry business in its cinema ads, to fluffy animals, to now trying to appeal to people’s emotions through relationships.
The former Orange insider says: ‘With Orange, every campaign is different. There is no consistency or clear message coming out of Orange. They confuse the hell out of customers.’
A spokesman for Orange says: ‘It’s not simply a new TV ad; it goes beyond that. It reminds people about where we are as a company. We are in the business of relationships.’
Qualified support came from one senior trading partner: ‘The headline figure behind the campaign is huge. A number of marketing people whose opinions I respect say they think it has potential.
‘It’s going to be about judging a complete through-the-line execution over a period of time, not one medium. They certainly have the money. If you look at O2 when it launched, everyone in the industry laughed at the logo, then the strapline and the bubbles. And that has become, in time, one of the most successful rebrands in UK corporate history.’
And to illustrate his point, O2’s new advertising campaign has got off to a more sure-footed start. It has managed to communicate the brand reposition in a much clearer and more straight-to-the-point manner than Orange. It introduced its new slogan ‘O2… we’re better, connected’, two months ago.
The operator’s new campaign also plays on people’s emotions by saying that they are better when they are connected to each other, but it also spells out O2’s proposition very clearly - that it offers the best connectivity.
O2 has a track record of clear advertising messages and a highly regarded brand. The company’s old strap line ‘O2… see what we can do’ also encouraged customers to try out new mobile services.
The operator’s new message isn’t only about mobile connectivity, but encompassed broadband and other ways to connect; fitting perfectly to the operator’s array of offerings.
O2 has a track record of clear brand messages and excellent customer service. All of O2’s ad campaigns have worked well, usually explicitly spelling out a service that the company is promoting or its overall proposition as an operator.
‘Whatever O2 do and whatever they have done in the past five years, they have had consistency. Everything looks the same, everything feels the same,’ the former Orange insider says.
He adds: ‘“We’re better, connected” - that’s a perfect strapline. It’s not just about mobile. It’s broadband, TV – anything. You look at the success of O2 and it’s because they have got their marketing right.’
The real deal
However, getting the ads right isn’t enough; the operator also needs to deliver, and O2 has. The company had the highest customer satisfaction of all five operators in JD Power’s annual survey (May 2008), and has invested heavily in customer services over the past few years.
Meanwhile, Orange has neglected customer services and it is paying the price with a brand perception that has fallen right to the bottom in operator rankings.
‘Your brand is the customer experience. If the customer experience is rubbish, your brand is rubbish.