EE: A Brand Too Far?

Imagine youre a consumer, and youve heard about this new 4G thing – that itll only be available through Everything Everywhere, and specifically its new operator brand EE. You think it sounds great, and want to jump on board. So you walk into an EE store – the one that used to be your local Orange or T-Mobile store – and find that its filled with phones which are available on Orange, T-Mobile and, yes, EE.
And thats without even considering the iPhone 5, which will only be available with 4G connectivity through EE – but when the iPhone becomes available, it doesnt look like EE will actually have launched yet. Everything Everywhere is advising customers to order the device through Orange or T-Mobile and then switch over once EE has launched…
Its not very straightforward, is it?
Splitting the difference
That confusion could prove a risk for Everything Everywhere, according to Kester Mann, operators senior analyst at CCS Insight.
“While the combination of both fixed and mobile networks in a single brand – EE – indicate a greater enterprise focus from the operator, maintaining three brands will not be straightforward,” Mann says. “In particular, EE needs to be careful positioning the Orange brand alongside the premium new name.”
At the press conference on Tuesday, CEO Olaf Swantee outlined the differentiation between the brands: “EE is for customers who want superfast acccess wherever they are. Orange is for customers who want more from their phones – rewards and the fastest 3G connections. T-Mobile is for customers who want straight-forward value.”
Along with the talk of consumers upgrading to EE – and the fact that users connecting to 3G through any of the three brands will see their network simply listed as EE on screen – Everything Everywhere seems to be treating the three brands almost like different tariffs, with EE representing the biggest, best, and most expensive package for their sales people to push. Could that hold a hint to where the business is headed?
What comes next?
Everything Everywhere has been maintaining that it is committed to maintaining the Orange and T-Mobile brands for months. Its something we speculated about in July, as some of the flagship Orange and T-Mobile outlet started to be converted into Everything Everywhere stores, and were firmly told “Everything Everywhere is as committed to the Orange and T-Mobile brands as we have ever been”.
That sentiment was echoed at the press conference on Tuesday, when Swantee repeatedly said that Orange and T-Mobile would “continue to thrive”. Its almost too easy to suggest that perhaps the lady doth protest too much.
After all, as 4G takes off and the market develops – and other operators start to launch 4G networks of their own – surely Orange and T-Mobile will be left far behind?
Its just a theory, but with all of the confusion involved in having three brands, dumping Orange and T-Mobile actually feels like the most sensible option for Everything Everywhere at this point. Only time will tell whether thats actually what its planning, whether a third brand is in fact a mistake, or whether theres something were not seeing yet.