AT&T is hoping to its associate its network with a new moniker, "strongest 4G LTE signal," and it's enlisting the help of four of basketball's greatest to make the new tagline stick.
The carrier is running a series of commercials around March Madness with retired basketball all-stars Shaquille O'Neal, Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner centered on its claim to have the strongest 4G LTE signal.
So what makes an LTE signal the strongest, you ask? AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) CMO David Christopher tells CNet it's related to reliability and means its customers won't experience service interruptions like video buffering or songs skipping.
Check out the new commercials, which AT&T plans to run during March Madness this month.
How the wireless operators market their networks matter as reputations tend to stick, whether they are true universally or not. For example, people tend to associate Verizon Wireless with the most reliable network -- something it charges a premium for, AT&T with the fastest speeds and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) with unlimited data pricing, because that's how they've always positioned themselves. T-Mobile US Inc. is, of course, shaking up all of these monikers with its new messaging as the "uncarrier." It has encroached on AT&T's speed claims, while AT&T has laid claim to being the most reliable in the past year. (See Sprint & T-Mobile CEOs Tweet-Battle Over Super Bowl Ads, Verizon Still Best Network, RootMetrics Finds and AT&T Claims Most Reliable 4G LTE Network.)
It doesn't matter so much that "strongest data signal" is a somewhat ambiguous idea and that AT&T won't share where it gets the data to back up the claim. It just matters because it's a metric that resonates with consumers. Four basketball legends and smartly delivered inside jokes will help too, I'm sure.
I imagine we'll see more marketing shake-ups going forward. For one thing, new reports continuously come out that give the wireless operators new bragging rights. T-Mobile, for example, has passed Verizon and AT&T for fastest networks in certain areas in several studies, while RootMetrics says that Sprint has passed T-Mobile in best overall network performance -- a bragging right you can bet Sprint is promoting. (See OpenSignal: T-Mobile's LTE Is Fastest and Sprint Versus T-Mobile: Which Metrics Matter?)
We'll also see new messaging because, with the exception of AT&T's Christopher, the other wireless operators all have new faces in the CMO slot. T-Mobile just recently appointed Andrew Sherrard as CMO. Sprint replaced CMO Bill Malloy with Jeff Hallock in February of last year, but Hallock is set to leave the company soon with no replacement named as of now. And, Nancy Clark replaced Ken Dixon as Verizon CMO last fall. (See More Executive Shake-Ups at Sprint .)
Both Verizon CFO Fran Shammo and AT&T CFO John Stephens made comments at the Deutsche Bank conference last week that the price wars in the US have started to cool down, but -- with new faces and new metrics to discuss (and T-Mobile's next uncarrier event this week) -- it's clear the marketing wars won't slow down anytime soon. (See AT&T, Verizon CFOs Predict Title II Litigation.)
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading