My very good friend Grace sent me a heads up on an article in BrandWeek called AT&T Ad Guru: Brand Name Still Rings a Bell (subscription required). While the article mainly focuses on an interview with Wendy Clark, VP Advertising for the New, New, New, Gosh I Promise You It Is New AT&T talking about branding it also has a paragraph on AT&T's bundling efforts. (side note - for those of you that are in the political world or financial services relax, I have two good posts coming your way. Tomorrow will be on Lynn Swann for Governor's online advertising campaign).
I won't go into detail or commentary on the rebranding efforts because if you had to choose between SBC a Texas company or AT&T a world-wide brand name known for technology (courtesy of Bell Labs) and customer service, which way do you think those focus groups went? Ms. Clark does mention testing brand name X versus SBC and AT&T and a good thing X didn't win out; otherwise we would have been bombarded with a $200 million ad campaign promoting a truly awful brand name like Embarq. Ms. Clark says in the article "What AT&T is all about is going to be bundled services. We know from our own tracking that customers want one company to do business with."
Really. I've seen the same sort of research back in the mid-90's when I was part of a marketing and product team researching bundles for the old and better AT&T. I researched every bundle you could think of: wireless/LD, local/LD, cable, and etc; we even researched a plan on rollover minutes way before Cingular introduced it. After all of that, we launched Personal Network in 1999 which I believed was still the most retentive product AT&T has to date.
You know what people want? They want the arbitrary world of local/LD products combined because it is just something made by a regulatory ruling. They want true bundles that are at the access point- so, if you use the internet for phone service they want one bill for that, one bill for cable, and one bill for wireless. The only reason people will go to a provider for all of their telecom needs is because they believe they will get a bottom of the bill discount by combining these services. If they can buy a la carte cheaper they will, because as Ms. Clark points out, "you make a decision and lock in what you think is a good value and a good decision, and go on with your life."
She also says that the new AT&T will only market themselves as a one stop shop provider, but that is unrealistic for the vast majority of the US where they are not the local provider. Those areas they either have LD or wireless, not exactly a one-stop shop and when they see their wireless revenues tanking because of this strategy they'll go back to stand-alone product marketing.
Oh, and if you think people want their wireless and wireline bills combined think again. As soon as you run into spouses that use their wireless phone to keep calls hidden, that bundle will blow up in your face. People want bundles of services at access points with a giant bucket of minutes/usage, not some company cross-selling services together and telling you what a great deal you are getting.