*Note: I wrote this post 5 years ago. Enjoy
Way back when I was working at AT&T, I volunteered to work on two double secret probation projects called Cheetah and Panda. These were AT&T's first efforts to market cellular (Cheetah) and paging (Panda) to the AT&T long distance customer base. We in the LD world had to work with our McCaw cellular counterparts in understanding the products, offers, and incentives to create the direct mail piece, inbound call scripts, and TV ads. This was back in 1995 when you didn't have wireless gizmos attached to your body and hardly anyone understood how the product worked.
The group we had was very small, and as I recall there was only one marketing manager (me) on the project and my job was to write the marketing brief, review creatives, work with sales execution, and negotiate the offers. Two big decisions I recommended were the use of 1800336TRUE for inbound calls and what I believed was the first official use of a free cellular phone with a new account sign-up. Both were significant because people never forgot that 800 number (AT&T finally shut it off last year in 2005) and the free phone offer is often the price of admission into wireless service. One other recommendation I made which was shouted down was comparing service with our competitors. I was told that Craig McCaw called that antenna chasing and with a growing market it wasn't needed.
As this Sunday NYTimes article explains, now with over 70% penetration in the US, cell phone carriers now focus ads on each other in order to steal market share. What was once taboo in the industry now looks common place as I must have seen the Sprint/Nextel wireless data card ad (mentioned in the article - see ad below) about 100 times while watching football this weekend. I'm sure with this strategy shift, you'll see more offers to switch, better promotions, and better prices. It used to happen in the LD world, but with mergers that the FCC allowed to create super local/LD carriers, those incentives have long since evaporated. I'm still waiting for a phone call from my local provider Embarq (the worst brand name in history) to call me with an offer to switch.
Well, at least we consumers can enjoy some good old fashioned name calling, promotions, and fun advertising in the wireless world. My antenna chasing idea wasn't so bad, it was just 10 years ahead of its time.