There certainly were more players this year: Companies that had no interest in the telecommunications industry when the quadrennial Telecom was last held were now elbowing their way among the more established companies at the trade show.
But these more established companies are struggling as well. In contrast to such trade shows as the Comdex computer shows, where most exhibiting companies didn't even exist 10 years ago, most of the Telecom exhibitors have been around for decades. These telecom carriers are facing revolutionary changes-with some, like France Telecom, kicking and screaming all the way.
Competition is becoming a fact of life in the telecom industry, as companies around the world are privatizing. For many, this means providing true customer service for the first time. For all, it means a new way of thinking and a heightened marketing challenge.
Robert Allen, chairman of AT&T, acknowledged that even his company-which has faced competition for more than 10 years, and which is undergoing its second massive breakup to better compete in the changing marketplace-needs to raise its identity.
"We need to capture an identity with the [global] consumer equal to the one [we have] in the United States," he said at the conference. When asked how he would do that, he replied, "It's surprising how a large advertising budget can help spread your identity."
Pressed further, Mr. Allen confirmed what an AT&T spokeswoman told me weeks earlier: that AT&T may use the familiar bell logo in its quest for wider brand identity. "The bell might be a good logo to use. The `Ring the Bell' logo has worked well in the U.S. for a hundred years."
Advertising Age International will take a closer look at the marketing challenges facing the telecommunications industry in our January issue. As this industry goes global, it will provide a marketing example for other industries.
In our September issue, we introduced "Talk of the Globe." The new feature takes a look at marketing issues with a global perspective, through the eyes of consumers-"people on the street"-as well as advertising and marketing experts. In this issue (see Page I-3), we examine how consumers and marketers react when their homegrown products or services are challenged by companies outside their borders. These marketing battles continue to erupt around the world-some on a global scale, as the telecommunications industry can attest.