T-Mobile

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Right now, T-Mobile’s advertising is the best in the category.  The way it integrates print, TV and web is beautiful, the art direction is constant, and spokesperson Carly Foulkes has been managed brilliantly.  Never tarted up, always positive, always girl next door, Ms, Foulkes and agency Publicis Seattle are building a place in our brains for this price shopper 4G mobile brand.

As ubiquitous as this advertising is, it’s not Geico annoying.  Not AT&T message meandering or Verizon techno mappish. It’s a clean, retail brand imprint and it’s beginning to work.

Creative advertising dudes (less so dudettes) will snark at this comment saying the work is as creative as chipped nail polish, but from a brand management point of view, in a muddled market, this work is moving phones.  And T-Mobile doesn’t even have an iPhone.    

Imagine if T-Mobile changed its spokesperson every couple of ads.  Or tried to compete with Verizon by employed a lot of red in its color palette. Or rather than hammer home price it showed all the cool phone innovations (okay, they do a bit of that on TV).

If the AT&T purchase goes through next year, don’t be surprised to see BBDO morph the campaign Ms. Foulkes way.  They won’t cut over using the Magenta color the way they did using Cingular orange, but they know enough to keep the price work clean. Or we might just see Publicis hold the retail business and cede network and inno to BBDO.

T-Mobile has organized its brand and kept to the plan. That’s why its numbers are creeping up! Peace.

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T-Mobile has made a very smart marketing move by offering kids ride free on the family plan.  In our house, mom pays the phone bills for all family members so T-Mobile has done its homework when it comes to the whole decision maker buying experience.  

What’s smart about the promotion is that most plans now offer unlimited texting at a flat fee and since kids only text, this is win-back play of some marketing magnitude.  In print ads, T-Mobile compares their $59.99 plan for 5 lines to AT&T’s $59.99 Family Plan for 2 lines (mom and dad). 

T-Mobile, who still has the nicest brand color palette on the market, has locked up the phrase “The Family Network” with its logo in print advertising in NY, yet the website still publishes “Stick Together” as the corporate line. I smell a bit of desperation amidst this new kids-for-free tactic. No doubt, the new idea is working and kids do grow into loyal adults if well-treated, but flip-flopping brand strategy and taglines is scary stuff. 

I’d like for T-Mobile to stick around; it’s good for competition. And carving out a space as the “family” network is quite doable, but it will take more than one price promotion and some cutting and pasting. It’s going to take a massive plan. Peace it up (in the Middle East)!

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The mobile web business is a mess. It’s a mess like the PC business was back in the late eighties and early nineties. The voice side of mobile is working okay but the data side is the problem. Hardware standards are varied (data goes over different switching systems), operating systems are as plentiful as ice cream flavors, apps are being developed in garages, stores, offices and labs — and the telecom carriers are voting with their pocketbooks not their heads.

The only voice of reason today — creating some waves at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona — is that of Alcatel-Lucent. They are acting as an “broker” working to get all parties into the labs to create standards so we will have mobile web data interoperability.  iPhone apps will then be able to work on Droids phones, T-Mobile widgets will connect with AT&T widgets, the mobile web will become a single web and prices will come down. 

This stuff is really complicated.  Hard decisions will have to be made by many. Heed the call. Go to the labs. Write down expenses. Be open!

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