I’m not sure if I’ve heard the term "De-Branding" before, but it appeared today in a piece from the NY Times.

AT&T is going to eliminate the Cingular brand over the next 6 months since buying the cellular phone company a while ago.  It’s hard to keep track of the acquisitions/mergers in this space…but basically, AT&T, broken up many years ago into regional "Baby Bells" has come back to life after one of those baby bells bought AT&T.  Huh?  Exactly. 

At the end of the day, I know their are many well paid analysts that decided this was the way to go but here’s my focus group of one.

  1. AT&T equals old, stale, high priced long distance, and failed customer service
  2. SBC, the baby bell that bought it’s former mother ship (AT&T) back, had plenty of name recognition and did better at customer service, but SBC is a boring name and never really took off as a brand.
  3. Cingular is "hip" and new.  It represents the future (wireless, connectedness) and now, even the iPHONE by Apple announced a couple of days ago.  Doesn’t Cingular just sound good?  Like the "Cingular source for X, Y, and Z?"

Of note were these quotes by Wendy Clark, a Senior VP of Advertising for AT&T,

“What consumer and business customers want is a single provider of
services for the way they live and work today,” Ms. Clark said, “and if
it’s one company, they want it under one name.”

Also from the piece

As for the
opinions of some brand-identity consultants that the Cingular brand
appeals to youth more than the venerable AT&T name, Ms. Clark said:
“The youth market is incredibly fickle when it comes to branding. If
you give them what they want, the brand is secondary. It’s incumbent
upon us to keep delivering what Cingular offered its customers.”

These are very powerful statements!  And their weight should not be "mis-underestimated" (It’s Friday let’s have fun!).  Think about what Ms. Clark is saying.  I think she’s hinting that they went with AT&T vs. Cingular even though they knew better.  The brand is secondary!  So what you deliver (the most important thing) apparently "Isn’t the brand".  Interesting.  I think they’re missing the mark here and valuing "unity" over "reality".  That darn fickle youth market (and probably the one that drives a massive portion of their revenues since most over 30’s don’t use their cell phone for music, TV, or texting) is not as fickle as you think.  Those "Yutes" love a good brand and they’ll spend endless sums of their parents money supporting it.  Just ask Mr. Jobs.

I’d love to hear the experts chime in on this deal. 



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