Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cingular/AT&T

The most recent example of corporate stupidity comes from our friends at Cingular and AT&T. As most of you probably know, it's now just AT&T.

I understand (at a very basic level) the company line on the move: They're trying to better integrate their various services to capitalize on core competencies and create synergies between divisions, and unifying the brand is a logical step in convincing customers AT&T offers a comprehensive communication solution.

But, seriously, are they for real? Not only are they nixing a brand that has built up quite a bit of brand equity and loyalty, but they also just made the opposite change shortly after the merger. AT&T Wireless figured to piggyback off Cingular's visibility and decided to centralize under the latter's name not too long ago. Now, they're taking one of the most recognizable name in the mobile business out of the market. In the short term, it's going to mean confused customers ("Where did Cingular go?") and unnecessary expenses (there must have been a dozen commercials during the NFC and AFC Championship games today).

But my beef with the move centers on the rationale behind it. Maybe its a generational thing, but I just don't think the AT&T's brand name is better than Cingular's. AT&T is old school, a lumbering giant that you wouldn't expect to be on the forefront of innovation, while Cingular is new and cool. And they've definitely put effort into making it seem that way (remember all those Cingular ads during the Super Bowl a few years ago?). The switch negates all that. To top it off, it looks completely ridiculous - what kind of company changes their name one way only to change it back a few years later?

Of course, it's a great way to reinforce the stereotype that you're clumsy, confused, and, well, a lumbering giant. Gotta love the irony. Good luck, AT&T.

(Oh, and an apology for dropping all the b-school lingo. I promise I understand it's all nonsense. Everyone knows there's no such thing as synergy. Outside of management class, that is.:)

6 comments:

  1. As for the forefront of innovation, aside from building America's national and transoceanic network infrastructure from the ground up (and inventing everything that such a task required), AT&T has also brought us:

    -the fax
    -the transistor
    -speech synethesis
    -the commercial satellite
    -the laser (through they called it maser, god knows why)
    -UNIX
    -C/C++
    -TDMA AND parts of CDMA
    -802.11 wifi

    They're not sitting on this fact, either.

    This of course is all ripe fodder for commercials like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uN1rZRpcKCo

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