Just As I Thought

Forward to the past

There are a lot of suits out there who just can’t seem to shake the past. And I think most of them work at AT&T.
Or, what passes for AT&T these days. Because it’s only a name now.
As of Monday, Cingular Wireless will change its name to AT&T Wireless, only a few years after they merged with the previous AT&T Wireless then spent huge sums of money to eliminate that brand in favor of the Cingular brand.
And now they’ll spend huge sums of money (which, of course, comes from price hikes on the backs of customers like me who now must pay 50% more for a simple text message) to undo the Cingular brand and go back to AT&T.
Stupidity, really. And not just because of the money; but because of the long overdue death of the AT&T brand.
“AT&T” means absolutely nothing to consumers today. Very few prime consumers — the young — have any clue about the history of that name, or in fact, what the initials stand for. We’re talking about a brand that goes back to 1885, folks.
And for much of the first 100 years of AT&T, they were a symbol of stability and reliability, a monopoly in telecommunications. But as they reached the century mark, the monopoly was broken up into numerous companies, each one worse than the last. The AT&T brand was diluted and started to become the hallmark of expensive long distance, poor customer service, and a slew of failed high tech companies. AT&T never innovated or created anything revolutionary. Eventually, they became irrelevant; the businesses were sold off bit by bit. All that was left was the name, which — for some unexplained reason — sentimental suits decided was more valuable than any other company asset.
In the last couple of years, the AT&T brand has started to replace the more localized brands that were established after the break-up. They’ve become, once again, “the phone company” in an era when more and more people eschew the phone company altogether. People who don’t know what it was like to have no choice in telephone companies, or a time when you couldn’t own a phone but instead leased it from the phone company.
No, these people know that they can get phone service from multiple wireless companies, the cable company, the internet company.
So we come to Monday, January 15, 2007, when some moron in a suit decided to eliminate the youth-skewing, bright orange, hip brand of Cingular for the old-skewing, muted blue, creaky and irrelevant brand of the 19th century, AT&T.
Cingular’s brand carries a decent amount of baggage, what with its poor customer service reputation; but the powers that be are naive if they believe that spending millions or billions of dollars to erase that name and replace it with an old brand will divert the attention of shafted customers.

“Around the world, our customers recognize the AT&T brand for meaningful innovation, a commitment to customer service, high quality and exceptional reliability,” said Edward E. Whitacre Jr., chairman and CEO of AT&T. “AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular are now one company, and going to market with our services under one brand is the right thing to do.”

So, instead of actually providing innovation, customer service, high quality, and reliability, they’re just going to use a name that implies it?

1 comment

  • American Telephone and Telegraph, right? Every time I hear AT&T I think about the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey and what brands they showed that are still around. I thought AT&T was one of the gonners (He makes a picturephone call on the space station) but here it is back. Hilton is still here, but Pan Am certainly didn’t survive to provide an orbital shuttle. Hey, where is that orbital shuttle anyway? It’s 2007!

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