Orange’s death spiral

The demise of the Orange brand is one of the sorriest stories in marketing. Last week saw the announcement of the latest marketing director to arrive with hopes of turning round the brand’s fortunes. Tom Alexander comes from Virgin Mobile. And boy does he have has his hands full.

Figures from Marketing Magazine show how far Orange has fallen. They now have to spend much more in advertising than O2 (£90million vs. £50 million) to support the size of business (£4 billion). A clear sign that the Orange brand is now weak [And also what an amazing job O2 have done to build a brand from scratch in just 5 years.]

Orange have the cheek to complain that the other mobile companies have "stolen their brand clothes". But they only have themselves to blame: they stripped themselves naked. Just look at the zig-zagging communication the brand has employed in the last five years. Campaigns we’ve had include:
– Hard nosed business man
– Child as teacher in the Orange mobile school
– Animals as metaphors for price plans
– Cartoon characters
– Lights out in New York, trying to go back to old Orange
– Using the two characters from the brilliant cinema ads
– Wind up toys joined at the waist: Togetherness
– Life as you like it


Like most cases of success or failure, I believe at the heart of the Orange story is a people issue. It does seem that it all started to go horribly wrong when the company was swallowed up by France Telecom, leading to an exodus of key people including charismatic and influential founder Hans Snook.

The story also shows that once a brand like Orange goes off track and starts to struggle, it goes into a sort of death spiral. New marketing director hires new agency to do new ad campaign. Results disappoint, so all change. New marketing director hires new agency to do new ad campaign. Results disappoint, so all change. And the more the brand changes, the weaker it gets, making it harder for the new campaign to work.

It goes to show that any brand should think twice or more before walking away from what made them famous.