You’re hot. Then you’re not

Writing about Orange in a post last week inspired me to go and dig out an ad that they did to launch in Thailand. This was back in the late 80’s days when the brand was still hot. They were masters at combining sausage and sizzle, creating a truly differentiated brand from scratch. And their whole mix stood out from the crowd, from the simple name to the black and orange identity. Every time I watch this I goose-bumps. The script, the casting, the music… its a mini bloody masterpiece.

But then it all went horribly wrong. I think it started with the France Telecom takeover in 2000. Talking to people who worked there pre-FT, things did take a big change for the worse. There was more process, the French management didn’t really "get" the brand. And then the company’s visionary CEO Hans Snook quit. One shareholder perfectly summed up how important the role of the brand CEO was:

"Orange without Snook is like the Starship Enterprise without Captain Kirk"

Then in 2002 Orange UK hired the bloke who did the "monkey" adverts for that living dead zombie of a brand, ITV Digital. Surprise, surprise he brought with him the agency behind the monkey, Mother. There first bit of work was the start of Orange going off the boil. Compared to the ad from earlier in the post this really was an act of "brand vandalism":

After years of consistency, Orange then zig-zagged through a number of campaigns I’ve lost count of, and fell behind in the innovation game. This left the UK market wide-open for a new brand to steal leadership from them in the shape of O2.

The sorry tale of Orange shows how fragile brand success is, and how easy it is to head off course…and once you’re off the boil, its hard to ever make the brand hot again.