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Analyst: Tone of T-Mo's Latest Antics Could Backfire

Thu, 03/07/2013 - 8:21am
Andrew Berg

T-Mobile and AT&T appear to be officially at each other's throats with their latest marketing antics, but some are questioning the company’s brash approach to the market. 

Last week AT&T lashed out at T-Mobile with full-page ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today that appeared to be defending the honor of its network against attacks by new T-Mobile CEO John Legere. 

The ads from AT&T claimed that T-Mobile's network is only half as fast as AT&Ts and drops twice as many calls. At the bottom of the page is text that warns, "Don't be fooled by their misleading claims. For the better network experience count on AT&T.”

Now it appears T-Mobile is responding directly to AT&T with new ads that ask the question, "If AT&T thought our network wasn't great, why did they try to buy it?"

Proofs of the ads were leaked Wednesday by TmoNews.com, which said the ads may run as early as yesterday. The outlet said the ads were designed by the same agency that put together T-Mobile's most recent television spots. 

When reached for comment, T-Mobile declined to confirm the legitimacy of the ads. 

Regardless of whether the ads are real and will eventually run, the whole back and forth appears between the two carriers is very real, and appear to be in response to the tone set by T-Mobile's outspoken new CEO, John Legere. Legere has made it clear that he intends to engage AT&T head on as part of the company's "challenger" strategy. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Legere went so far as to call AT&T's network "crap."

Mike Sievert, chief marketing officer for T-Mobile, said that he is glad AT&T is paying attention. 

“Wow. Looks like we struck a chord. AT&T doth protest too much. Glad they’re spending their money to print our name," Sievert said in emailed comments. 

Industry analyst Jeff Kagan said he thinks this war of words is just getting started, but he says T-Mobile is probably in the wrong here. 

"Over the last decade, AT&T was the leader in the wireless data world. They had an exclusive on the Apple iPhone for years. They led the way from 2G to 3G and 4G LTE," Kagan said, calling T-mobile a "weaker and smaller competitor." 

In the long run, Kagan said this aggressive strategy could backfire on T-Mobile. 

"I think T-Mobile wants to be a strong competitor, and I applaud their efforts to do just that, but when they stretch the truth and bad mouth competition, that turns off buyers and that may hurt them in the end," Kagan said. 

For now, T-Mobile appears content to ride its larger rival's coattails with a public spat that is sure to generate plenty of attention.

 
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