Close-Up: Will conviction sell mobiles or is it about price?

Two mobile companies adopt new straplines but take very different approaches to today's tough market, Noel Bussey says.

ORANGE - Going back to its roots with the existential 'I am'

After what seems like years of dithering about whether or not to keep or dump "the future's bright" strapline, Orange has finally taken the plunge and killed it off.

It has been replaced by the Fallon-created, emotionally charged existential line, "I am".

And the new thinking is being introduced with a huge, all-encompassing, bells-and-whistles cross-media brand-building campaign that spans both consumer and business messages.

The first tranche of work is already out, led by a 30-second TV spot where an unseen narrator informs the audience about how everyone he's ever met helped make him the person he is today.

There are also a number of poster executions and the i-am-everyone.co.uk website. However, Fallon has a second TV ad, directed by Danny Klienman, which is about to break, and apparently further extends the idea behind the positioning. Insiders reckon it really brings the idea to life.

However, Jonathan Morley, the global brand vice-president of Orange, said recently that the new positioning will see Orange "expanding the brand's conviction in the power of community" - in a bid to help users connect with each other - instead of bombarding them with deals and packages.

Justin Billingsly, the brand director, added that the most powerful part of the current campaign is "its integrated nature". He points to the more than 120 different executions planned that will ensure "it feels consistent with a closer connection between the campaign and Orange".

However, Jim Clarke, the senior technical analyst at Mintel and a mobile specialist, believes that this strategy will struggle to gain any long-term resonance in a market that has little brand loyalty and is based principally around offers and minutes packages.

"It's obvious that Orange has put a lot of money into it and that it is a very big idea, but Orange has always been a premium brand and I'm not sure this will get the message across, really. It's going to take a lot of bashing on the head, and consumers in this market are just too cynical and too sophisticated to accept that these days," he says.

He also points at the state of the Orange brand in comparison to other networks as another major obstacle in its way.

"The mystique around the Orange brand has all but disintegrated, so I'm just not sure this big brand campaign will work. Most networks offer the same thing, so price comparison is pretty much the only route for successful advertising, unless it's very special. Emotional advertising like this is very rarely successful in this market these days," he says.

However, Morley is confident that the new strategy is the right one because it is a refreshment of what the brand has always stood for. He has said: "This campaign creates a big idea that we can live off and organise the brand around."

Whether the strategy will work and will give Orange a real branding edge in what is essentially a commoditised market will take time to tell. But the sheer scale and bravery of the big idea is admirable.

"Advertising in mobile needs to be braver in what it does, but it's such a difficult task that most companies will not stick their neck out and do it," acknowledges Clark.

FACTFILE
Customers
2004: 14.2 million
2005: 14.8 million
2006: 15.3 million
2007: 15.6 million

Market share
2004: 23.6
2005: 22.1
2006: 21.8
2007: 21.5

Media spend: £76 million
Number of outlets: 338, with 60 more planned by 2009
2G national coverage: 99 per cent of the UK's population

T-MOBILE - Going all out to recognise it's about value now

Despite the fact that T-Mobile has a spanking new line, "Life's for sharing", Richard Huntingdon, the director of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi, is very keen, very, very keen, to point out that the first work to carry the line (which is out at the moment - you will no doubt have done a double-take at the poster execution where a woman has her hand up a cow's arse) is purely tactical. The TV and print work is aimed at "hoovering up" any customers who are out of, or coming to the end of, their contracts.

On the face of it, the strategy may seem like an odd one; surely with a new line and brand proposition it should be launched with a big piece of brand advertising across all media? But Huntingdon believes that the market at the moment is about price, and will remain that way for some time.

"The line is a long-term brand proposition and there will be a substantial campaign around it at some point, but now is just not the time. This year is about getting out there and saying 'we want to own value' and that's what this campaign is doing," he says.

Karen Phipson, the head of brand and communications at T-Mobile, adds: "Customers are always going to want to know what you can offer them, so we realised we needed to launch with that, not some lofty claim about our brand proposition."

Jim Clarke, a mobile specialist and the senior technical analyst at the market research firm Mintel, reckons that the T-Mobile strategy is a shrewd one.

"Saving money has become more popular than ever with the credit crunch, so you really need to tell consumers about offers," he says.

However, he thinks there may also be more to the strategy. "I think T-Mobile has chosen to bring out the new line with a price campaign because it knows that 3 is working on a lot of the black holes in its coverage and will be trying hard to convert people - so I think T-Mobile is looking to instigate a price war with 3."

The line, "Life's for sharing", is present on the tactical work and is still important to the development of the T-Mobile brand as it moves forward in the ever-changing mobile market.

It was developed by Saatchi & Saatchi as a way of encapsulating T-Mobile's desire to "mobilise both personal and social networks", as well as drawing together its offerings across home and mobile.

"We started by looking at semiotics and childhood. Sharing is a huge part of building relationships when we're young and is a basis of how relationships are formed," Phipson explains. "We then realised that we needed to be looking at little moments of sharing, not the epic ones. It's the little ones that define our relationships and this gave us a richness that means we can develop our business around optimism, which is of vital importance in the mobile market."

However, Clarke, despite agreeing that customers need to be told about offers and value, doesn't think that the new T-Mobile work is brave enough overall. And he believes that, even with its tactical ads, the mobile company should aim for big successes.

"It's a shame, but the days of the really good big mobile advertising have gone. There's no more Bob Hoskins's or the likes of One to One," says Clarke. "Overall, I think the industry needs to be braver in its approach."

FACTFILE
Customers
2004: 16.1 million
2005: 16.7 million
2006: 16.9 million
2007: 17.0 million

Market share
2007: 24.4

Media spend: £43 million
Number of outlets: 275
2G national coverage: 99 per cent of the UK's population