Marketing Decisions

The blog of LHL Partners, LLC. The blogger is (often) Rick Lightburn, Chief Knowledge Officer of LHL Partners, with his observations about marketing. Our main page is at

Monday, October 22, 2007

AT&T Rebranding Effort

In today's (October 22) Ad Age, there's a front-page story with the headline AT&T Rebranding Effort 'a Failure of Epic Proportions'? It features a lot of typical advertising agency myopia about branding, and is therefore rather silly.

The history is that AT&T, by acquiring Bell South, owned all of Cingular, which previously had been a joint venture. Faced with the prospect of either supporting the Cingular brand name along side of the AT&T brand name (and introducing that brand name into international markets) or converting the Cingular brand into the AT&T brand.

Since the Cingular brand had been well supported and well recognized, this conversion was decried by some. The Ad Age story cited above is one instance: one research vendor, who tracks consumers' awareness and attitude towards the brands of "12,000 companies," described the conversion as a "failure of epic proportions."

Most brands exist to generate awareness and liking for the products and companies that bear those brands. Most brand gurus seem to think that because brands can create value (in some categories), the creation of brands with high awareness and likability is the objective of all marketing. It isn't: the objective of marketing is sales. In many instances--but not all--the challenge of generating sales requires a brand with high awareness and likability. When sales challenges are not addressed by increased awareness and likability, then branding isn't important.

This is AT&T's situation right now. For AT&T to increase sales, it needs to focus on other things, such as reliability, coverage, and technical capabilities. Branding isn't going to help here.



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