CEO John Legere and CMO Mike Sievert are driving T-Mobile's mutinous marketing machine, making the mobile carrier a takeover target. Here's a look at how its advertising has come of age, from Catherine Zeta-Jones to Shakira.
The T-Mobile brand came out of the gates with Catherine Zeta-Jones. The actress signed as the voice of the operator's "Get More" campaign in 2002, the year the carrier officially launched in the U.S. In 2006, T-Mobile dropped Ms. Zeta-Jones in a bid to turn its marketing toward smartphones, but would bring her back three years later when the carrier returned to a price focus in its messaging.
In 2006, T-Mobile unveiled a tagline called "Stick Together," billed as "a fresh new look and new strategic marketing direction." The plan hinged on a phone plan, myFaves, which offered unlimited calling to a select five other subscribers. To promote the push, the company enlisted a slew of celebrity athletes such as Charles Barkley. For the company's marketing execs, the campaign indicated that T-Mobile was the "first social brand."
Before John Legere donned his hot pink, T-Mobile had Carly. Young Canadian model Carly Foulkes joined as spokeswoman in 2010 and quickly became synonymous with the brand, appearing in a several TV, print and outdoor ads. She helped trademark the carrier's token magenta, a branding model carried over from German parent, Deutsche Telekom. T-Mobile used Carly for its earliest negative campaigns—going after AT&T, which launched as the exclusive carrier for the iPhone.
T-Mobile's first major TV spot carrying the "Uncarrier" positioning was a Western sendup. Four gunslingers arrive in town, meant to represent the massive carriers. "We love controlling people," one grumbles. Another defects, switching to a magenta hat and riding off. T-Mobile's marketing department considers it the springboard for a campaign built around assailing its three larger rivals. "You have to draw a line in the sand," Peter DeLuca, senior VP-brand marketing, said of the spot.
As the "Uncarrier" movement progressed, T-Mobile grew gutsier. For the 2014 Super Bowl, it enlisted famed NFL free agent Tim Tebow for a trio of surprise spots based on its practice of shedding wireless contracts. Two ads were from Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners and a third was from T-Mobile's staple Publicis agencies. Before the spots aired, T-Mobile kept its planning tightly under wraps, letting only a select handful of staffers know of their existence.
In October of 2013, T-Mobile hosted a splashy event in New York City to promote its latest "Uncarrier" initiative—new offerings that provide unlimited data and texting worldwide. The event was headlined by global pop star Shakira, the carrier's latest celebrity endorser. Shakira resurfaced in the latest World Cup in spots that play on the absurdity of the wireless industry. She has also appeared in several Spanish-language ads.