FRIDAY 2 JUL 2010 9:42 AM


When T-Mobile and Orange decided to merge, their agencies were posed one humdinger of a branding quandary. Which brand should represent the merged corporate entity: one, both... or none?

“In the UK mobile market there’s 115% penetration,” says Stuart Jackson of Orange. Sounds painful. And for the people who run our mobile networks, it is. With an average of more than one mobile phone for every person in the country, finding and winning new customers is a serious ask. But if growing organically is so tough, how else to keep those dividend-hungry shareholders happy? In recent times, this is exactly the question that T-Mobile and Orange had been asking themselves. The answer they came up with would represent the biggest shake-up of the mobile market since the launch of Three over seven years ago.

“We decided we wanted to do something radical and lead the market through consolidation,” explains Jackson. And once a few questioning frowns from the Office of Fair Trading and the European Commission had been smoothed out, that’s exactly what they did.

By combining the third-placed company in the UK (Orange) with the fourth (T-Mobile), the new entity wouldbecome the biggest fish in the UK mobile pond. It would have almost 30 million customers, 37% market share and sales totalling somewhere around the £8 billion mark. But one very large question remained: what would the new business be called?

It was stick or twist time. “Do we keep everything as it is? Do we push the two brands together? Or do we look at a smarter way of doing it?” Jackson’s description makes clear that there was some serious head-scratching going on. But eventually a consensus emerged.

“The power and heritage of both brands was something we didn’t want to just throw away. Both brands were assets for us.” The decision was taken to create a corporate brand from scratch. T-Mobile and Orange would remain as the consumer-facing names, while a new identity would be dreamt up for the merged corporate entity.

Charged with fulfilling this brief were the two incumbent agencies, Saatchi and Saatchi for T-Mobile and Fallon (who declined to comment) for Orange. But would asking two agencies to work so closely together not inevitably cause frictions? Spencer McHugh, director of Brand Orange UK, explains how a sense of harmony was always likely to prevail. “Both agencies are part of Publicis. They are close family members already. Equally, Orange and T-Mobile are both brand-led and creative organisations.”

Saatchi and Saatchi’s Richard Huntington picks this up. “It’s lovely how the organisations responded. There’s a good deal of respect between the two and that made it a hell of a lot easier. If one had said ‘We’re brilliant and we don’t want anything to do with the other’, it would have made the whole job harder.”

But mutual love-in aside, there was now some serious work to do. Step one was to agree on the kind of vision they all had for the new brand. And none of the parties were short on ambition. Stuart Jackson: “People from both businesses saw the opportunity to do something different. They wanted to take the opportunity we’d been given to redefine the market”.

Huntington goes further. “For us it was almost a spiritual brief. We thought, ‘Let’s do something with a bit of altitude and ambition’. It would have been very easy to get dragged back to a focus on commodities – texts and minutes and so on. But we didn’t want to do something dreary and corporate.”

So why such passion? The answer lies in the nature of the mobile market. “This is an incredibly exciting category to work in. Anybody that tries to predict the future of what these devices will be capable of are on a hiding to nothing. Even a couple of years ago nobody would have predicted where we’d have got to today, especially with mobile internet,” argues Huntington.

“If you look back at the different phases of mobile, things have evolved through three distinct phases,” adds Jackson. “The idea of being able to make a call from wherever you happened to be and to send these things called texts completely blew people’s minds at first. Phase two was about accessing the web and email on the move. We see phase three being about accessing everything you want, anywhere you are in the world.”

Huntington reveals that he always kept in mind an Arthur C. Clarke quote. “He said that any technology that’s sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic. There have been times when this market has produced exactly that. We’re back in one of those periods today.

“I now use my smart-phone to monitor my sleep patterns and wake me up when I’m in the lightest phase of it. I use it to find all the National Trust properties within 30 minutes of where my car is parked. This sector is about delivering magic to our lives.”

There’s even more to this zeal than meets the eye however, because the creation of this brand wasn’t about the glory of coming up with something for the company’s 30 million customers. The new identity was to be a corporate brand, it would be seen mainly by investors, the business community and, crucially, the merged company’s 16,500 employees. And that’s what makes this story different. The vast majority of branding projects are designed to get at the pound in our pockets. Not this one.

“We wanted the company’s employees to feel they had a purpose. We wanted to come up with something that communicated a mission because that’s a very galvanising thing,” says Huntington.

Spencer McHugh adds to this. “We looked at merging the two names but thought we’d be missing an opportunity by doing that. If we’d done that it wouldn’t have inspired the business and the staff. Employees were effectively our customers on this project.”

And so the creative minds got to work. The result is the name Everything Everywhere, which Richard Huntington believes meets the brief perfectly. “Everything Everywhere was written to this sense of ‘who knows what future holds but we’re bloody excited about it.’

“It’s not yet another symbol. It can sit quite nicely alongside the two consumer-facing brands. Who knows what expressions it will ultimately have? I’m not sure if we will ever see it on stores, certainly not right now, but what it does well is that for T-Mobile employee in a world of magenta, it sits nicely in that visual language. Similarly, in Bristol or Paddington [Orange’s main UK offices] where employees are living in a world or orange and nice Helvetica type, Everything Everywhere doesn’t clash.”

“It’s type-only and it’s grey, elegant, contemporary, very open,” says McHugh. “There are a number of places it might appear and we have a couple of different design looks, a grey and a black. We feel the typeface and the way it is set just makes it feel quite simple and straightforward. The reaction from employees has been fantastic.”

How the new identity will play with everyone else, only time will tell. But for now the Everything Everywhere story remains a fascinating case study. Whereas many mergers lead to a simple mash-up of brand names (GlaxoSmithKline) and others see the acquiring company asserting their authority (Midland Bank becoming HSBC, Abbey becoming Santander), here the tale is of a business that found a third way. It’s a story that goes to show that when you’re asked if you want to stick or twist, sometimes you can say ‘I’ll do both, please’.

Peer Review

David Cole, Thoughtomatic

“Our initial impression was, ‘What an interesting name choice...’ It suggests all encompassing and endless possibilities. However, the longer you sit with it, the less inspiring it becomes. It feels like an internal brainstorm idea that made it out to the public or even a strap-line that usurped another naming option.

That said, all we can comment on at this stage is the lower case italic logotype which suggests an informality and sense of forward movement but lacks a strong visual personality and, without sounding like grumbling creatives saying ‘we could do better’..., we'll be interested in seeing how the brand develops, to see if this is brought alive with visual storytelling.”

Cheryl Geovannoni, Landor Associates

“Hans Snoek must be very proud of the vision he had when he created the Orange brand all those years ago. ‘The future’s bright. The future’s Orange’ set the world alight in a way few have done since. Now, a mere 16 or 17 years later, the great work being claimed by the family members Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon feels to me like a paler version of the original. Everything Everywhere is not really a new brand or a new name, but a generic reference to the future of technology. No more and no less. And the uncomfortable seating arrangement of those two brands alongside it will have to be addressed in a far more fundamental way very, very soon. And possibly by a branding expert, dare I suggest."