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The UK's biggest mobile network wanted to use 4G to bring new abilities to the nation. Working in close partnership, we built EE: a brand that has since achieved the largest and fastest 4G uptake of any European operator.

Everything Everywhere were the company behind two strong brands: Orange and T-Mobile. With a combined 23 million UK customers, they were the dominant player in a market that had become static and entrenched. Competition span on price, and whether-or-not the latest handset came for free.

But a change was on the horizon. New waves of mobile technology were making life easier for the tech-savvy, who had adapted to new devices and were now ready to see what was possible with a faster network. Meanwhile, many others were left stranded in the wake of these advances, aware of new possibilities yet unable to make full use of them.

The big players were so far failing to do much for either group. But in the summer of 2012, Everything Everywhere would be opening the UK’s first 4G network, which meant a huge opportunity to do something really new and change the market for good.

A new process: straight to business

Everything Everywhere asked us what a third, all-new, game-changing brand could do for Britain. There was no real pitch; but instead a series of working sessions, in which we built the business case for this new brand. With a collaborative, cross-functional team in place – and senior engagement from the offset – we made quick strides in achieving sign-off.

We had to get straight to possible directions within 3 workshops, inside 2 or 3 weeks of partnering...it was clear we were never in a pitch phase” Beatrice Vears, Wolff Olins

This ‘no pitch’ mentality was instrumental in shaping working life on the project, which became characterized by a close, scrum-like relationship with Everything Everywhere. We built corresponding mini-teams in both organisations, partnering people up early and working closely together.

Now you can

Together, we created EE: a brand to help you do things you couldn’t do before. Plus a compelling new idea to drive the business forward: ‘Now You Can’.

This helped drive major investments into the UK’s first ever 4G network, as well as fibre broadband and film. ‘Now You Can’ inspired a new way to serve customers on the high street, on the phone and – most importantly for the new brand – online. It was an idea that spoke powerfully to people who were technological ‘haves’, as well as the tech ‘have-nots’.

The brand idea was supported by a creative expression that made it clear what being part of a network was all about. A system of joined-up particles – that formed and re-formed to make words and objects – showed the many benefits a network could bring to a person’s life. This was complemented by a tone of voice that was at once both playful and purposeful.

Lift off

Launch year was huge: as 4G was being turned on in 11 cities across the UK, more than 700 stores became EE branded overnight. In co-ordinating more than 20 partner agencies, we saw the value in setting out clear roles, relationships and responsibilities early on. Our close working relationship with EE and the partner agencies meant that, when fires did occur, everybody knew right-away and a solution was quickly found.

During launch year, EE found they were 8 times as productive as usual. In such a busy time, our role was an important one. They were in a period of real change – a new brand meant they could do new things, in a way they hadn’t done before. We were able to help guide and elevate their spirit through this new territory, by constantly stating the end-goal and spurring them on for another push. Many of EE's people told us that these meetings were among the highlights of their week.

The process of change wasn't a linear one. We were constantly reacting to change, standing back and recalibrating before going back in” Chris Moody, Wolff Olins

EE achieved their goal of a million 4G customers by September 2013, beating the target by three months. They are on track to reach 6 million by the end of 2014 – the largest of any European operator, with the fastest uptake.

The new brand has also proved compelling to partners: EE were able to secure exciting and exclusive new devices for launch, as well as being the UK’s first and only 4G network ready for the iPhone 5.

And they've pledged to help build the digital skills of one million people through a series of new initiatives, making good on their promise that ‘Now You Can’.