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Orange tells customers they are now 'partners'

Ask not what your mobile operator can do for you

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Orange, France Telecom's consumer brand, has decided not to serve consumers any more: in true Web 2.0 style it's rebranding itself as a partner - not a provider - in telecommunications.

The new slogan is "together we can do more", so forget about being a punter just wanting a conversation with another punter; now you're expected to become a participant in the digital future. Luckily Orange isn't expecting you to physically form part of their mobile network, femtocells aside, but wants to be your partner in exploring how much you need other people:

"At its heart is the idea that today we live in a digital world where borders between people and places are being pushed away," the press release expounds breathlessly. "This changes the way people connect within society letting us share ideas and collaborate to achieve more than we could alone."

The Orange part of France Telecom has 120 million customers, all to be rebranded as partners. According to brand-trackers Millward Brown Orange is the world's 50th most valuable brand, but then the same company valued the word "Google" at $86.1bn, so they shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Part of the problem for companies like Orange, or at least their PR flunks, is that no one is really sure what business they're in these days.

According to Caroline Mille, Senior Vice President, Brand and Communications at Orange, "The Orange brand was originally developed for one technology in one market – mobile telephones in the U.K ... the brand now spans a range of technologies ... in 26 countries".

But it's not just technologies that have changed, these days you can buy music from Orange, or get your TV from them, so the brand has to be able to signify all those things as well as the mobile telephony that still pays the bills.

To elucidate this new, we-do-everything philosophy, we have Everyman, who will debut in a UK advert this Saturday when cynics will be able to see that he's just like you you, and has his own web site to show how much like you he is. He'll be doing all the things you do, with a little help from his friends, and the company formerly known as a mobile network operator. ®

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