Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One, Singular Sensation

Along with my Opinionated Marketer buddy John Whiteside - and every other marketer on the face of the earth - I'll be curious to see how the AT&T-Cingular rebranding effort plays out.

Cingular did an excellent job of making their name a household word. My guess is that - at least in the U.S. - more people know Cingular's "raising the bar" than know "You world. Delivered", which is AT&T's tag-line.

AT&T is certainly a venerable old brand and I'm guessing that with CocaCola, IBM, and a few others it's in the upper reaches of worldwide recognition. But it's got a lot some problems.

It's got four syllables. So it's hard to say. We all want things that are fast, and brand names are one of those things we don't want to spend a lot of time saying. Most brands are one, two or three syllables. Coca Cola obviously has four syllables, and it hasn't hurt them any. But Coke also has a nickname. AT&T doesn't (unless we revert to Ma Bell, which doesn't make any sense absent the Baby Bells of yore).

It's 19th century. AT&T. Does it still stand for American Telephone & Telegraph. Telegraph? Telegram for AT&T: CHANGE MEANING TO TELECOM & TECH. STOP. Half the people who know IBM probably don't know what it stands for (International Business Machines), but all are those words are still in use. Telegraph? Way too quaint for this day and age. And American? At least IBM was prescient enough to use International even way back when.

It's stodgy. It's stogie. Think AT&T and you picture a bunch of tycoons sitting around the club complaining that nothing has been the same since Franklin Delano Roosevelt ruined the country. And smoking cigars. (Okay - they probably wouldn't have been 5 cent stogies - they'd have been Havanas. Illegally imported Havanas no doubt.)

Cingular, on the other hand, has three syllables. It's a neo-logism - so it doesn't have to stand for anything, yet the name conveys "unique". It's 21st century. It's hip - think snowboarders, not plutocrats.

What it isn't is particularly business-y. On the other hand, AT&T isn't particularly consumer-y.

When AT&T was a holding company, it held a lot of other companies with their own names and brands. (Baby Bells like New England Telephone and New York Telephone). Of course everyone just called these sub-brands "the phone company." (In olden days, when there was less time-pressure, we didn't mind using 5 syllables.)

From a consumer market standpoint, the demographic that AT&T appeals to skews way old - say, aging parents of baby-boomers. Not exactly a growth market. Cingular's consumer market is younger and broader.

AT&T might have saved themselves some big bucks if they'd decided to preserve two brands, one consumer and one business. Business would have been able to buy from one supplier (which was the argument for brand combination), and consumers could have kept on consuming Cingular.

When we look back on this rebranding effort, I'm sure it will be something of a singular sensation - but I'm guessing that the singular sensation will involve the amount of money spent, not the effectiveness of the rebranding.

1 comment:

John Whiteside said...

Well put.