Monday, March 26, 2007

Corporate eccentricities: Orange, goldfish and elephants

If you’ve ever been into an Orange mobile phone shop, you’ll be familiar with the gold fish that swim around a tank in every store.

But did you realise that there are always a precise number of fish in the tank, one of them is always a different colour than the others, and there are spares out the back in a second tank in the store room!

Orange subscribe to feng shui. At a corporate level. Their shops and buildings are all audited by feng shui consultants (any volunteers for that job?!) to ensure they’re suitable for staff to work in. So lots of fish, plants (but not too many sharp-leaved ferns), energising coloured walls and no stairwells in energy-zapping locations.

It might sounds like corporate bunkum, but when France Telecom took over Orange, they looked at the feng shui policy, and decided that it was doing to harm and let it remain in place.

The former Orange CEO and founder Hans Snook was described in a Scotland on Sunday article as a “dotty, feng shui and colonic irrigation enthusiast” who “never fitted in at France Telecom”.

Anecdotally when a FS consultant audited one new large building in England, he commented that the particularly tall RAC building opposite was a “striking python” and the only way to counteract it was with elephants. So the foyer of the Orange building now includes two large stone elephants!

While I’m inclined to mock Orange’s policy, I do applaud their attempt to set themselves apart from the competition with a little eccentricity. It probably doesn’t cost them a lot in consultant’s fees, and yet it gives a je ne sais quoi to their buildings.

Following the complete withdrawal of Carphone Warehouse from the sponsorship of Channel 4’s Big Brother, Orange were approached. Before committing, they polled the Orange UK workforce, who rejected the tie-up with a resounding 80% (though I can’t cite a reference) of them voting against the plan.

Orange dropped the plan, and it’s since been announced that Virgin Media (the company formerly known as ntl) are BB’s new sponsor.

For Orange, feng shui is mostly harmless, whereas Big Brother’s a considerable risk.

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