Friday, April 25, 2014

Twenty years of the Orange brand (1994)


Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of one of the Orange brand. On April 28, 1994, Britain got a new mobile telephony company with the unconventional name Orange. It has since grown to become a large corporation and a textbook case for how to conceive and launch a new brand.

Hutchison Microtel, owmned by Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, had won the license to set up Britain's fourth GSM network. It didn't have any particular technical advantages, so it would have to build its business on its offers and its brand. In addition to Microtel's in-house team, the company commissioned corporate identity form Wolff Olins and ad agency WCRS to establish a tone of voice for the new brand.

Mobile telecommunication was still seen as something for businessmen among the public, as well in parts of the industry itself. This reflected in the technical names of its competitors; Vodafone, Cellnet and One2One. The story goes that the brand was to established on simplicity, openness and optimism. Names like Pecan and Gemini were considered, but the team selected the Orange. The name, Wolff Olins' square logo and the communicative concept signalled warmth and humanity. The offers and their pricing were seen as honest and straightforward.

At its launch, the Orange focused on small and medium-sized businesses with the tagline "The future's bright. the future's Orange", imagined by WCRS. The ad that launched the brand can be seen below.



In the year 2000, Orange was bought by France Télécom who would eventually use it for most of its operations. Last year, they even decided to retire their old name, elevating Orange to corporate brand name.

Oddly enough, the brand's twentieth anniversary and ascension to corporate name somewhat coincides with the brand's more or less imminent disappearance in its home market. A few years ago, Orange UK merged with Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile. The new common brand EE, also designed by Wolff Olins, launched in 2012. The store on Orange's UK website closed about a week ago. Unless the strategy is altered and the still popular Orange brand preserved, it looks like it will eventually be phased out to be completely replaced by EE some time in the future.

April also saw the passing of Wally Olins, who was still the head of Wolff Olins when they developed on the Orange brand.

Wolff Olins case study

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