Will ee’s beeg launch pay off?

The new ee mobile network is one of the biggest new brand launches in recent times – will the many millions of marketing spend pay off? This post is on the recent launch itself. It follows my previous post here, on the risk of ee cannibalising the other Everything Everywhere brands, Orange and T-Mobile (each of which have c. 20% market share, with Vodafone on c. 24% and O2 leading with c. 27%).

First, the good stuff

1. Simple, distinctive brand identity

No-one cares much about the brand of mobile network they use, they really don't. Therefore, they key is to have a distinctive, memorable brand identity. This way, your brand is easy to remember when you come to make the low interest choice of mobile network, after the much more important decision on which mobile phone to buy.

Screen Shot 2012-11-15 at 16.45.38And here, ee does well. Its a simple name, with one syllable, even though the marketing team are making a futile attempt to get us to call it "e" "e". OK, so its short for brand owner Everything Everywhere, but come on, who cares? No-one.

The identity is also quite distinctive, with the yellow circles and turquoise dotty letters. 

Furthermore, the identity is made for the digital age, with the little dots designed to be easily animated online.

2. A bEEG bold splash

Credit to EE for being bold in their launch, and really consistent in execution. On the launch weekend the first 10 or so pages of the Sunday Times I read had one ee ad after another. The next day I went to London and Waterloo train and tube stations had multiple billboards that accompanied me and millions of other commuters on my journey.

Screen Shot 2012-11-15 at 17.01.51

3. Simple Sausage and Sizzle

In a market notorious for being heavy on complicated tariffs, and light on service innovation, hats off to ee for launching with a real product "sausage". ee is the UK's first super-fast 4G mobile network, and will be for a few months yet. This is thanks to parent company Everything Everywhere persuading the government to let them re-use exising 2G network capacity, rather than wait for the 2013 auction of new 4G capacity, like the very pissed off Vodafone and O2.

And the launch communication is pretty simple and direct, selling the benefit of super-fast 4G.

Screen Shot 2012-11-15 at 17.08.23

Second, the questions

1. Brand focus

 The beeg question is the one posed in my last post, regarding the need to launch a new brand at all. 

I still believe a better option could have been to revitalise and re-launch the once powerful Orange brand as the single brand in the portfolio, merging it with T-Mobile. Instead, gazillions has been spent on launching ee as a third brand. £50m was spent just to re-brand the 700 Orange and T-Mobile UK retail stores and
re-train staff to "have knowledge on its three different propositions", according to Marketing Week. Then there is the multi-million pound media campaign, and what I guess are juicy fees paid to Wolf Ollins for the new identity.

The result of this strategy is a fragmentation of money and talent across three brands: ee, T-Mobile and Orange.

My guess is that this has to be a short term move, prior to a rationalisation of the portfolio with a single ee brand. Already Orange and T-Mobile customers are being encouraged to switch to ee to access 4G services. And the network sign on their phones has already changed to now say ee (not that they have probably noticed). A one brand portfolio would create focus for the company, and provide simplicity for the poor old consumer, who really doesn't need so many brands to choose from.

Having first recruited new ee customers ready to pay a premium for 4G, a merger of the Orange and T-Mobile brands would then then allow the company to offer some more affordable tariffs. This would broaden the appeal of ee, which is currently seen as “far
too expensive” or “too
expensive” by 90% of people in a recent poll.

2. Underwhelming communication

The launch ad uses Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon. Half of the two minute launch ad is spent with him explaining the idea of him being connected to lots of people. This is apparently based on a game, 'Six degrees of Kevin Bacon’, which shows how all film-industry
figures can be connected with the actor in six steps or fewer. No, I've never heard of it either. He then goes on to explain the benefits of 4G, such as watching video with no buffering (the annoying spinning wheel you see while waiting for a download).

Its all a bit complicated, drawn out and Kevin Bacon is not really an A-List actor with wow factor, is he? The mind boggles at the media investment behind a two minute launch ad… and I can't help feeling the millions of marketing could have been better spent.

What a contrast with the launch of Orange, which was a big, bold, optimistic and single-minded brand launch. Remember this ad launched in 1995, 17 years ago. At the time it was highly distinctive and impactful.

2013 prediction?
So, what will happen the the total market share of Everything Everywhere in 2013? Well, looking at market share trends you can see how much inertia there is in the market. Despite millions of pounds spent on marketing by the big brands, shares are very stable (below has shares from 2008 to 2010). The new ee brand will gain some share, though you would expect at least 40% of this to come from Orange and T-Mobile, if not more given the pro-active push to get these customers to switch.

Screen Shot 2012-11-16 at 09.12.24
So, my prediction is a total share up slightly at say 43-45%. Of this, ee will take a small share of less than 10%, struggling to make people to switch given their low interest in the category, and held back by high prices.

If this is harmonised into one brand, then this would be a good result in terms of brand focus. A slightly bigger business, with a single brand. Although what we will never know if if the same result could have been achieved with a much better ROI by revitalising Orange.