AT&T kills Cingular, gives us your grandfather's cellphone

A merger with Cingular made AT&T a player in the wireless sector, now their ego has taken them right back out of the race.

AT&T has decided to kill off the Cingular brand, replacing it with their own. The reason?

“What consumer and business customers want is a single provider of services for the way they live and work today,” said Wendy Clark, senior vice president for advertising at AT&T in San Antonio, “and if it’s one company, they want it under one name.”

That's great Wendy, but you picked the wrong name. Cingular has brand equity. It is seen as young, hip, reliable. When you think of AT&T, you think of landlines, rotary dials, and the Reagan administration.

Is there ANYONE outside of the AT&T board room that would rather have the AT&T name on their cellphone than Cingular? I've been pretty satisfied with my Cingular service the past few years, but the first time I get a bill with the big bold blue AT&T logo on it, I'm going to start considering Verizon. It will be an involuntary reaction.

Did Steve Jobs know this was coming when he made Cingular the 'exclusive wireless provider' of the iPhone? Talk about a branding mismatch! What's next, re-animating the deceased Orville Redenbacher to have him sell popcorn while rocking out to the tunes on his iPod?


Check out Greg's take on AT&T's move.

UPDATE: Valeria adds a great 'round-up' post about AT&T re-branding Cingular at Conversation Agent.



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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:29 AM,

12 Comments:

At 11:44 AM, Blogger gianandrea said...

you bet that jobs will use this to get out from ther exclusive deal. definitely a lucky guy.

 
At 2:51 PM, Blogger Dmitry Linkov said...

That's awful! On Job's place I'd really think to stop the deal.

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger Maria M. Lopez said...

This has got to be one of the stupidest things I've read in a long, long time. If people wanted AT&T wireless service, they would have signed up for it.

What's the expression I'm searching for... Oh, yeah. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

As for Apple, let's examine the whole iPhone thing for just a moment. The iPhone is cool. Cingular is cool. AT&T boring business persona -- not cool.

Oil and water. Enough said.

 
At 11:06 PM, Blogger anne simons said...

I totally agree, Mack. There's nothing wrong with consolidating under one brand, but why AT&T? I just don't get it.

 
At 1:43 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Anne ego is the only thing that makes sense. But to me the Apple angle is very interesting. It's hard for me to see Jobs going along with this if he knew the switch was going to be made. Then again, I can't believe that he didn't at least hear rumors that this would happen. Will be interesting to see what happens next.

Oil and water, that's it Maria!

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger Michael Morton said...

Hey Mack,

This wasn't surprising. There have been rumors of this floating around for months now. (Begin shameless plug) http://constituencycommunication.blogspot.com/2006/05/cingular-goes-way-of-dodo.html (End shameless plug)

I think that Jobs knew of the coming change but had to go with AT&T/Cingular. Why? The iPhone needs a well-known service that covers a lot of territory. The only two good choices are AT&T/Cingular and Verizon. (The other companies simply do not have the coverage that the big two have.) Jobs obviously wouldn't pick Verizon because of their Chocolate phones which are in direct competition with the iPhone.

 
At 1:12 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

If you're a human being who has been a customer of AT&T long distance at any point in history, chances are at one point AT&T has screwed you big time on a phone bill or two.

I honestly don't know anybody who has a positive concept of AT&T. I do know plenty who are satisfied with their Cingular service, though. Personally, if I were looking at my bill every month and saw AT&T on it, I'd be slightly less inclined to pay it and support the monopolistic giant.

Think about the recent Verizon/MCI WorldCom merger. Guess which name got dumped. That's right, good old "we screwed you and half our CEOs are in jail" MCI/WorldCom. People trust the Verizon name.

Having briefly worked in the telecommunications industry for one of the above mentioned entities, I can tell you that board-room decisions are very rarely based off of any sort of logic or sense. They're made by egomaniacs who are completely out of touch with their constituency and what's more don't want to be in touch.

 
At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Valeria Maltoni said...

I was doing some research on Cingular and their tagline-- I too, have been a happy Cingular customer for years -- and came across this page on their site:

"What does the AT&T-Bell-South merger mean to you? It means that BellSouth and Cingular are now part of the new AT&T. The BellSouth Name will soon become AT&T (no mention of our cherished orange and friendly Cingular here) but you will continue to get the same level of affordable products, etc."

And more on being able to take advantage of innovative services, etc. See link here http://www.att.com/customer_merger/index.html.

Can someone please clue these people into what customers are thinking? Hello, I'm a customer and I love your hip Cingular brand, I identify with it. What this means to this customer is that I can kiss goodbye to the level of service and friendliness I used to receive and say hello to cold and dismissive systems.

How convenient to bring everyone in under the same umbrella -- convenient for whom? You.

Are you going to have massive layoffs as part of this plan to be more convenient?

Oh, and about those long distance bills... I moved to a calling card after canceling the long distance plan. Then you put taxes on the card and I could not charge it on weekends, when I needed to use it, so I switched to online providers.

Keep it up this way, new AT&T, and soon someone will come up with a real offering for your soon-to-be-ex wireless customers.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Danny said...

Ironically, Mack, I DID have an AT&T wireless phone from before they merged with Cingular. It was fine. Worked great, no problems. It wasn't until Cingular phased out whatever technology that phone was on and tried to crap on my plan that my satisfaction went down the tubes (leading to my switch to verizon and the customer service woes I posted about on BMA).

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"Can someone please clue these people into what customers are thinking? Hello, I'm a customer and I love your hip Cingular brand, I identify with it. What this means to this customer is that I can kiss goodbye to the level of service and friendliness I used to receive and say hello to cold and dismissive systems."

Bingo Valeria. This is a classic case of a company making the mistake of satisfying their wants directly, instead of putting the customer's first. And it's exactly why this move will come back to bite them in the arse.

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous John J said...

Excellent comparision to Orville. Those commercials creep me out.

 
At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Armil@att phone said...

I agree with this statement too: "What consumer and business customers want is a single provider of services for the way they live and work today,” said Wendy Clark, senior vice president for advertising at AT&T in San Antonio,

 

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