Inside the Mix

AT&T rings in the new year with a marketing initiative that nobody can - or should - miss

AT&T rings in the new year with a marketing initiative that nobody can - or should - miss

At a time when most marketers, marketing writers, and bloggers are predicting trends and making resolutions for the new year, we're given the opportunity to have a stab at what the landscape may look like in the coming 12 months. At the top of nearly everyone's list is the prediction that blogging and podcasting will grow in usage and provide more and better ways to reach niche audiences with finely targeted messages.

Targeting, customization, and opt-in marketing have definitely earned their place near the top of these lists. But let's not forget the big picture. This was abundantly obvious to me as I saw footage on New Year's Eve of the ball descending in Times Square. As well as ringing in a new year, America found itself ringing in a Happy New AT&T, with the new logo standing out prominently behind the crystal sphere, outshining even the longstanding appearance of Discover's logo.

Surely, no one has missed AT&T's all-encompassing consumer relaunch, with the redesigned blue globe and the tagline, "Your world. Delivered." Indeed, as Karen Jennings, senior EVP for HR and communications at AT&T says, "We're going to be awfully hard to miss." The campaign has been estimated to be worth in the region of $800 million to $1 billion. (And while the large-scale advertising spend is unmissable, AT&T has also come up with some other ingenious tactics, including a partnership with The New York Times
in which yesterday's crossword's clues pertained to the AT&T brand.)

It's not just for consumers, either. Fleishman-Hillard's work in the run-up to the relaunch focused not only on external constituents, but also on ensuring that employees' feelings about the brand they represented were reinvigorated through a comprehensive internal communications program that pivoted around AT&T's 130-odd-year history.

For a product category like telecoms, service differentiation on a grand scale is hard - these things are more typically realized on, say, the customer- service level, and best portrayed through more tactical marketing channels. But what AT&T is doing through this mammoth branding effort is showing just how big a company it is. In telecoms, the bigger the implied infrastructure, the more complete the service, so it would have the customers think.

So while oft-predicted trends such as increasingly drilling down to targeted audiences likely will -and should - come to pass, I'll add one of my own: that business and account consolidation, as well as globalization and its attendant effect on CSR, will drive bigger and better umbrella campaigns. We'll see big brands look at what the likes of AT&T have done - and the budget it took to do it - and do something on a similar scale. While marketers must indeed drill down, it's also vital not to miss the forest for the trees. A big brand needs cohesion on the macro level before it can be honed down to fit a niche audience.

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