Look, let me say at the outset that I like T-Mobile. They're the scrappy underdog of the "big four" wireless carriers in the U.S. They've shaken things up for the wireless market with their "Uncarrier" plans and they deserve a lot of credit. But I really wish they'd dial back the smack talk a bit, because I think it's starting to get in front of their message.
For years the corporate culture of the U.S. wireless scene was dominated by a bunch of guys in suits and ties who didn't really stand apart from one another. For the most part, they still don't.
Then T-Mobile hired John Legere and all hell broke loose.
This guy has personality to break the bank. He doesn't think twice about dropping f-bombs on stage or telling the competition how much he thinks they suck. And he won headlines at CES this year for getting bounced from AT&T's party. I admit that I thought it was a hoot and wrote about it, too. I get a big kick out of the guy. He's a Boston boy, too (you can hear it in his soft r's sometimes), so I admit that he has some home court advantage with me.
T-Mobile desperately needed a guy like Legere, and a vision and a plan, because without both, they were screwed. The Feds turned down AT&T and T-Mobile's bid to join up in late 2011. T-Mobile's own wireless network was in shambles. Customers were leaving in droves.
A little more than two years later, it's like night and day. Sure, T-Mobile doesn't have the same nationwide coverage as rivals AT&T or Verizon, but they're quickly building a 4G LTE network and packing on hundreds of thousands of new customers each quarter. They've reversed the exodus of customers, and they're growing.
I switched over to T-Mobile in April of 2013 and haven't looked back. In fact, I've been increasingly happy with the service — I've seen coverage and speeds improve quite a bit since then. But it still needs work.
What I like the most, as a former AT&T customer, is the T-Mobile bill that's half of what I paid AT&T. I can live with spotty coverage that still too often drops to EDGE or makes my iPhone say "No Carrier" all together, because I put enough in my pocket each month to fuel up the family minivan.
In fairness, T-Mobile isn't the only carrier that offers patchwork coverage in my region, and when I venture into the city from my exurban home, I get very good LTE coverage. But every time I report on T-Mobile, I can count on a string of comments from people complaining about the same issues that I see, so I know I'm not alone.
You gotta get people to pay attention, and Legere does that in a big way. He's brash and he's loud, just like T-Mobile's TV ads — complete with high-impact black and white video and rock music soundtrack over T-Mobile's trademark magenta logo and type. I'm afraid that extrovert personality may be poisoning T-Mobile's message a bit. Sometimes I think T-Mobile's marketing department takes it a bit too far. Case in point:
On Tuesday T-Mobile posted a fake press release to poke fun of an AT&T promotion that the company launched after T-Mobile's started its own "Contract Freedom" offer, in which T-Mobile will pay your family plan's early termination fee to switch to their service.
The press release includes a fake quote from AT&T Mobility president and CEO Ralph de la Vega, and even refers to AT&T's "dismantling" of its "Death Star." (For the uninitiated, AT&T's spherical logo has long been the source of humor, especially in marketing and branding circles, for its uncanny resemblance to the killer satellite from Star Wars.)
There are also some choice quotes from Legere and T-Mobile chief marketing officer Mike Sievert, congratulating themselves for shaking up the competition so much.
Now, T-Mobile notes that the press release was "written with tongue firmly planted in cheek," but it comes off as adolescent and smarmy. The front of the 1,100 word-or-so press release is a mish-mosh of trash talk and silliness about AT&T, burying the lede about T-Mobile's own plan.
My message to T-Mobile is this: You guys have an attitude and a message, and that's allowed, but stop acting like the cock of the walk, at least for now. Your marketing plan seems to be getting in front of your network buildout, and as one of your customers, that makes me nervous.
What I want to see from T-Mobile is simple: Less talk, more action.
How about you? Have you switched? Are you tempted? Is T-Mobile's take-no-prisoners attitude a turn on or a turn off? Sound off in the comments — I want to know what you think.
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