Vodafone brand stands strong, as rivals scramble marketing teams

I read today that Wally Olins, described as the man who rebranded British Telecom as BT, has died at the age of 83. According to the report in the Guardian, Olins was also "an integral part" of the launch of the Orange brand, and was generally described as the "world's leading practitioner of branding and identity."

Changing British Telecom to BT may not seem exactly groundbreaking, but of course branding is so much more than the sum of its parts and the right brand design and corporate identity are crucial to a company's long-term success. Both BT and Orange are brands that attest to a successful brand strategy and are now recognised all over the world.

Yet no brand is irreplaceable it seems, and indeed the European mobile brand landscape has been subtly changing in recent months with some long-standing and well-known brands disappearing from certain markets. In fact that increasingly includes Orange: the brand no longer exists in Austria, for example, after Orange Austria was bought by 3 Austria.

Even in the UK, the very market that spawned the Orange brand in 1994, Orange has to all intents and purposes quietly disappeared. Along with its teammate T-Mobile UK, Orange has been sucked into the void that is EE. The two brands are still evident on EE's site, and you can still buy new Orange UK and T-Mobile UK plans, but they are not actively marketed and no longer sold online. You actually have to put shoes on to buy them.

The message here is clear: EE--which like BT probably came as a surprise to no one when it replaced Everything Everywhere--is the future as it stands for '4G'. EE has lived and breathed 4G since its inception and now has a strong standing and a track record in the provision of 4G--or rather LTE--services.

A similar fate has also befallen Portugal Telecom's TMN brand, which was replaced by its sister brand MEO earlier this year. This move was driven by the focus on convergence that is sweeping Europe. TMN may have had the track record in mobile services, but MEO was the multi-play king. By bringing the two brands together and dumping TMN, Portugal Telecom was immediately able to boast its quad-play credentials with the MEO M40 plans that incorporate fixed and mobile services.

In Belgium, meanwhile, Belgacom is planning to unite its entire range of consumer services under the Proximus brand, which again has been used to spearhead the company's LTE rollout.

More changes are likely to lie ahead as further mergers take place, or where operators that have not already done so combine their fixed and mobile operations under a single brand. The future of E-Plus and its BASE brand could be up in the air if the merger with Telefónica Deutschland goes through, and the O2 brand could also eventually disappear from markets such as Czech Republic and Ireland. France could lose the Numericable brand following the cable operator's merger with SFR, and who knows what might happen if Bouygues Telecom were to merge with Iliad's Free.

Vodafone is probably feeling pretty smug here: the company has just celebrated the 30th anniversary of its brand and shows little sign of changing. It sure beats Racal Telecom, at least.--Anne

P.S. In observance of the Good Friday holiday, FierceWireless:Europe/TelecomsEMEA will not publish on Friday, April 18. We will be back in your inbox on Monday, April 21. Happy Easter!

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