AT&T: Rethinking their brand

The smartest thing AT&T has done lately is rethink their brand and advertising strategy. Yes, I know I’ve talked about them before, but these changes warrant a revisit.

“Rethink Possible” is more than a new tagline—it’s a new strategy. But is it the right strategy?

According to AT&T, “Rethink Possible is a promise to our customers about what they can expect from us and what we can achieve together.”

I’m sure iPhone users would like AT&T to rethink whether it’s possible to keep a call from dropping without customers having to pay extra for a MicroCell power boost.

Another statement on their website says, “Our brand promise is Rethink Possible. But it’s more than a slogan—it’s the expression of what we stand for. It’s what we strive to do every day so you can stay connected to the people and things that matter to you most.”

So here’s my question: Should a brand be something you strive for? Or should it be something you already do and do well?

AT&T’s Esther Lee (Senior Vice President of Brand, Marketing and Advertising) said, “There’s so much innovation happening at the company that I think people don’t know.”

That sounds like a problem to me. If AT&T truly is innovative, why wouldn’t we already know?  (And why wouldn’t the intro on their website be better?)

Let’s compare them to two companies with similar taglines.

Apple: Think Different

Apple claims to be innovative (or revolutionary) and consumers agree because Apple regularly introduces new products that change the way we think and act. “Think Different” works because consumers know Apple thinks different and acts different than most other companies.

Is AT&T trying to pretend they’re Apple? Worse, are they trying to take on Apple?

I hope not in both cases. But it does look like AT&T is hoping for the same type of turnaround Apple got from Think Different.

Adidas: Impossible is Nothing

This tagline works because it expresses an attitude athletes and other people who buy Adidas products already have or want to have.

It expresses an attitude their consumers strive for compared to AT&T expressing something both they and their consumers strive for. Hmm, am I being unfair by saying AT&T is not ready for this tagline yet?

AT&T: Rethink Possible

Rethink Possible to me, for AT&T, sounds a little cart before the horse and chicken before the egg. Rethink Possible is also what you want your employees to do, especially in a company that seems to be stuck in a rut.

In fact, I think it makes a terrific internal slogan that would motivate their employees to come up with new and better ways to serve their customers. I just don’t think they have proven enough yet to have that as their brand.

I do applaud AT&T for finally focusing on the customer instead of the competition. As Ms. Lee said, it’s time to “get past the competitive conversation and talk about what’s in it for the consumers.”

Agreed. The Verizon battle was killing them. It was time for them to rethink their brand, rethink their advertising, and rethink their future. I don’t think they were ready to claim Rethink Possible as their new brand.

And until I actually see innovation from AT&T and witness that customer focus, I’m not yet convinced. Are you?

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Interested in other blogs on marketing and innovation? Check out FutureLab.

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