AT&T dials wrong number by ditching Cingular

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Trashing the Cingular brand and its orange jack in favor of the antiquarian AT&T name is a singular mistake.

That's the opinion of 88% of respondents to Advertising Age's online poll on the dissolution of the Cingular brand by parent company AT&T once it completes acquisition of Cingular's co-owner Bell South. Many in the majority felt AT&T was kicking a much-liked brand to the curb. "I fell in love with the Cingular brand and logo through their national TV commercials. I was hoping and wishing for the day that Cingular would come to Minnesota for over a year," wrote Jessica Sellers, communications coordinator for the Industrial Fabrics Association International, a Minnesota trade association.

A number of respondents dubbed AT&T "your grandfather's" telephone company and derided its 19th Century, Alexander Graham Bell origins. Others chided AT&T management. Debra Kingsbury, an attorney for Volkswagen of America, called the planned change "a wonderful example of stodgy, old-line thinking and arrogance run amok."

Some recalled the poor service associated with AT&T Wireless during its declining years. "AT&T sold its wireless division because it wasn't very good at it-its customer service was especially atrocious," said Julian Cohen, VP-planning director, Leo Burnett, Chicago. "At the very least, the Cingular name masked the fact that it was AT&T in different clothes."

But some of the respondents didn't think Cingular was around long enough to garner so much customer loyalty. One respondent noted that brand accounts for only so much. At the end of the day, consumers go with whichever service has the best deal. -alice z. cuneo

Next week's question: "Do you think this year's network TV upfront will top the $9.1 billion brought in last year?" To answer, log on to AdAge.com.
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