Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jack is dead

Catching up on the blog while I am Sleepless in Switzerland.

[Cingular logo]Cingular is now officially dead. The mobile phone service was announced in 2000 as a 60/40 joint venture of SBC of San Antonio and Bell South of Atlanta. It instantly became the 2nd largest cell phone carrier, and plotted out a path away from the dead-end NADC (North American Digital Cellular, aka TDMA) over to GSM.

The murder was perpetrated by SBC which — after it bought AT&T and BellSouth — decided to rebrand it as AT&T. The rebranding effort announced on January 12 has now been accelerated.

AT&T Inc. today announced a new phase of the company's branding strategy. Overnight, AT&T kicked off this phase by replacing the Cingular brand with AT&T on all in-store signage, store kiosks, and point-of-sale materials in approximately 1,800 company-owned wireless retail stores. In addition, key stores in major markets also unveiled new exterior signage displaying the new brand.

The decision to move to this phase of the branding campaign is based on research that indicates that consumer awareness of AT&T — one of the best-known, most durable and iconic brands in the world — is high and ahead of expectations.

The store makeovers are also critical to prepare for the late-June launch of the Apple iPhone, for which AT&T will be the exclusive wireless provider in the United States.
The death of Cingular ties to AT&T’s grand ambitions to dominant the US convergence space:
Many company-owned stores have also installed kiosks promoting the complete array of AT&T services — wireless, high speed Internet, TV and home phone — in the company's traditional service area, and several markets are also planning for a new AT&T Experience StoreSM, a high-energy format that encourages hands-on customer interaction.
As the AP story notes, this is not without risk:
Jeff Kagan, a telecommunications industry analyst with Mindspring Inc., said there is some risk for AT&T giving up the well-known Cingular brand. But because the industry is moving toward a single provider for multiple telecommunications services, Kagan said it makes more sense to centralize the brand.
With the death of Cingular comes the death of the Cingular “Jack” logo, which has been heavily promoted for six years.

Like other carriers, Cingular’s marketing and growth seem targeted at teenagers — i.e., kids born in 1988 or later. The Bell System died in 1984, and since then AT&T has just been a has-been long distance company. How many teenagers know or care about Ma Bell?

Graphic credit: Flickr.

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