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In New Brand Campaign, T-Mobile Puts 'Stupid' Carriers, AT&T In Its Crosshairs

Third-Largest Mobile Carrier Promises 'New Swagger' In Messaging

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Once, T-Mobile's brand messaging was about a pretty girl in a pink dress, who seemed non-threatening even when she put on leather. That's all about to change.

T-Mobile is launching a rebranding campaign aimed at differentiating it from other "stupid" mobile carriers, CEO John Legere said during an unveiling in New York on Tuesday. Taglined "Un-leash," T-Mobile's new brand messaging will be about offering data plans that are simpler, more transparent and cheaper than the carrier that's really in its crosshairs: AT&T.

Mr. Legere specifically referenced AT&T several times throughout the unveiling, and he has set up its plans and contracts to differentiate from the No. 2 U.S. carrier. AT&T locks people into years-long contracts and hits them with hidden overage fees, he said, so T-Mobile will be doing the opposite with Simple Choice, its new data plan. Simple Choice will give users unlimited voice, text and web access for a $50 monthly fee and will not require a contract.

"It's time to disrupt the status quo in this industry," Mr. Leger said. ""Customers don't need another AT&T."

Currently, T-Mobile has approximately a quarter of the U.S. smartphone market share that AT&T and Verizon enjoy. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile had 33.3%, 32% and 8.2% of the U.S. smartphone market, respectively, according to a December 2012 Kantar report.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Legere announced the company will start carrying the iPhone 5 on April 12, making it the first time the iPhone has been available to T-Mobile customers. The original iPhone was exclusively offered to AT&T customers, whom, according to Mr. Legere, have been getting a raw deal.

To win new iPhone customers, T-Mobile is offering a payment plan to make them cheaper upfront: $99 and then a $20 device payment in addition to customers' monthly data plans. If a customer elects to leave T-Mobile, he or she will have to pay off the remaining cost of the phone but will not suffer a cancellation penalty.

To lure current iPhone customers, T-Mobile is offering an unlimited data plan. AT&T and Verizon no longer offer unlimited data plans to new iPhone customers; those that have unlimited data were grandfathered in, a big incentive for long-term iPhone users to stay with both carriers. Sprint has an expensive unlimited plan, at $79.99, nearly $30 more per month than what T-Mobile is offering.

T-Mobile will also carry the heavily anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4 come May and it already carries BlackBerry's newest smartphone the Z10.

The company's new brand message can best be summed up by this commercial that will start airing on broadcast TV on Wednesday. The spot features a cowboy donning a pink hat and breaking away from his group of bandits after a change of heart.

"It's metaphorical," Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile's SVP-brand and advertising said. "We're moving in a different direction."

Mr. DeLuca added that consumers should expect T-Mobile's aggressive new messaging to continue.

"All the swagger you saw [at the press event], you'll see in our advertising in all channels," he said.

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