The short story of the Orange brand is part of a much longer history of telecommunications in France.
It began two hundred years earlier in 1794, when the first telegraph message was transmitted over the Lille Paris line. It continued with a rich history, from the nationalized Ministère des Postes, Télégraphes et Téléphone in 1930, to the Ministère des Postes et Télécommunications in 1959.
The France Télécom Group was born in 1988 and, following its autonomy in 1990, it acquired Orange in 2000, in order to develop the international footprint and multi-service offerings we know today.
In the beginning: When the Orange brand launched in the UK on 28 April 1994, the mobile phone market was very different. Digital networks had just been introduced. But complex tariffs and high prices meant that mobile phones were status symbols, only attractive to business customers and city executives.
At the time, we were called Rabbit, owned by Hutchison Whampoa. Rabbit was losing money, so Hutchinson sent a team to the UK from Hong Kong to close it down.
Among them was a visionary businessman called Hans Snook who sensed a change on the horizon. He was keen to understand what people really wanted, so he began to talk to consumers, and more importantly, listen.
He realized people wanted a personal communications company. One that made mobile phones simple and accessible, for everybody.
He worked with brand consultancy Wolff Olins to lay down the foundations of the Orange brand with a set of human values at the heart: simple, friendly, honest, refreshing, and dynamic.
… And the launch message: “The future's bright, the future's Orange”
Within two weeks of its launch, the brand had achieved 45% awareness. After two years this had reached 70%: 20% higher than its lead UK competitors Vodafone and BT Cellnet. Unlike its rivals, Orange understood that customers wanted technology to serve them and not enslave them.
It was this “service first” insight that made Orange the leading mobile operator, much loved by its customers.
Here are some examples:
You need technology as the enabler, but it’s what you do for the customer in terms of service that is the focus
In March 1996 Orange floated on the London Stock Exchange – the youngest ever company to join the FTSE 100. By 1997, it had broken through the one million customer mark, ramping up to eight million by 2000.
The brand started to appear everywhere...
Little by little, Orange spread its wings internationally
In February 2000 at the GSM World Congress in Cannes, Hans Snook opened with the Orange World video – a mobile yet highly social vision of the world. And one we are only now seeing realized years later!
Orange caught the attention of France Telecom and was acquired for €39.7 billion in 2000, double the value of all Orange assets, the balance being for the power of Orange brand.
As it approached the millennium, France Télécom set its sights on a global and convergent services strategy. It bought stakes in several other international firms, becoming the fourth biggest global operator.
The mobile telephone operations of Orange plc were merged with the majority of the mobile operations of France Telecom, forming the new group Orange SA.
On the business side, France Telecom acquired GlobalOne and Equant (which became Orange Business Services) and focused on making itself relevant to the business world, by ensuring the same commitment to customers, account management and good service as it had done for consumers.
Over the years the Orange brand has also succeeded in gaining overwhelming acceptance in markets as diverse as Spain, Moldova, and Burkina Faso etc.
Orange proved to be a brand whose name, vision and identity can cross cultural and language boundaries. So much so that France Télécom changed its corporate name to Orange in July 2013.
In recent years, Orange has continued its international expansion, particularly in the MEA zone, with the aim of being the major partner for Africa’s digital transformation to benefit citizens, develop digital services over the long term, and accelerate the company’s growth momentum.
Since 2016, the launch of the Orange brand in Egypt, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone has also been an opportunity to welcome new employees and customers.
Orange has continued to enrich its multi-service operator strategy through the development of new uses and investing in innovation and future growth drivers (banking, cybersecurity, IoT, health, energy).
In 2017, Orange Cyberdefense launched to secure our operator systems and help business protect against digital threats.
2017 also saw the launch of the 100% mobile banking offer through Orange Bank in France.
Our aim is to consistently demonstrate that we are a digital, efficient and responsible company: always keeping our ideas, identity and innovations fresh and focused on what's essential.
This ranges from the work we do with start-ups (1,000+ start-ups have been supported via our various programs such as Orange Ventures, Orange Start-up etc.), through to the amazing volunteering work we do for the Orange Foundation, our philanthropic arm that has been active for more than 30 years.
Orange, a committed brand
Our commitment to a responsible digital world was not born yesterday. It is deeply rooted in our history. 25 years after it launched, the Orange brand now has 136,500 employees, invests in 26 countries, and serves 286 million customers worldwide, including 240 million mobile customers and 24 million fixed broadband customers.
The Group is present in 26 countries. Orange is also one a world-leading telecommunications brand for multinational companies through Orange Business Services.
As a trusted partner, Orange gives everyone the keys to a responsible digital world. Such is our Purpose, incorporated into our bylaws. Our mission is to ensure that, across our business, digital technology is designed, made available, and used in a caring, more inclusive, and more sustainable way. We are committed to strengthening the freedoms and security of people’s and companies’ digital lives. Everywhere, and for everyone, we deploy innovative technologies and services, thanks to the commitment and expertise of our hardworking Orange community.