In the world of wireless phone networks, AT&T has spent a lot of money staking out its brand position as the “fastest 3G network”, battling Verizon Wireless, who staked out the claim of “broadest coverage” (and a previous variation, “most reliable network”). AT&T’s problem, though, is that they did invest enough to maintain the physical reality of their claim.
First, Verizon marginalized AT&T’s brand position with their “they have a map for it” campaign, visually hammering their spotty coverage. In response, AT&T has tried to regain the word “fastest” in people’s minds with their own huge advertising campaign.
However, while they’ve been busy insisting that they’re the fastest 3G network, Sprint is starting to make that claim as meaningless as a horse-and-buggy manufacturer claiming they have the fastest buggy. Sprint is now rolling out its nationwide 4G network (in partnership with Clearwire), beating both AT&T and Verizon to the punch.
Sprint’s coverage is still spotty, as it tries to roll out its service in more and more cities, but it’s already available in almost 30 cities with more promised by the end of the year.
As such, Verizon’s brand position has not been damaged much – as far as they are concerned, Sprint occupies the same competitive position as AT&T – faster but with spottier coverage, and especially spotty in the high speed arena. On the other hand, AT&T’s position is significantly damaged. First Verizon made its “fastest” claim less significant by pointing out that its 3G availability was limited. And now Sprint has a fast, but spotty network; however, Sprint’s network is 4G – much faster than AT&T’s.
So what brand position does AT&T still hold? They’re the brand with not the fastest nor slowest network that is not the broadest nor spottiest in its coverage. This isn’t exactly a powerful position to hold. If I were a stock trader…
Domus is an advertising, public relations, and social media marketing agency based in Philadelphia. For more information, visit us at http://www.domusinc.com.