On Call: Finding Sprint's voice
The beleaguered carrier needs a image makeover for other carriers are beating it in the brand game.
Even now, I'd still call
A quick look at the other major carriers shows that they've been more successful at developing distinct identities and brands.
But what can you say about Sprint? What exactly is its brand? Heck, I can't even think of Sprint's marketing slogan (as in AT&T's "More bars in more places"). On one hand, Sprint can claim some interesting phones of its own--there's the
Though customer churn is far from being a carrier's only sign of success, Sprint is facing challenges on other fronts. As News.com's Maggie Reardonlast month, the carrier lost $344 million during the April to June quarter. Though that was an improvement over the previous quarter, its stock price remains in the cellar. Similarly, while the company no doubt from the of the , I agree with Maggie that Sprint . Simply put, Sprint needs more pizazz in its product line that will deliver new subscribers.
But beyond just developing signature phones, Sprint has another problem: what will it do with its iDEN network? Indeed, iDEN remains a big concern of many Nextel loyalists who have long feared losing their rugged, dependable phones and their beloved Direct Connect push-to-talk network. But as
But last week introduced another a twist. Just days after Sprint used the CTIA fall 2008 show to emphasize its commitment to iDEN and announce (including an iDEN BlackBerry), Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told a Goldman Sachs conference that the carrier would consider selling its iDEN network. Just exactly what would happen to all those iDEN phones remains unclear, but when I asked a Sprint spokeswoman for comment, she assured me that the company is committed to its customers on iDEN, both now and in the future. Yet, she didn't rule out a sale. "We are exploring alternatives for our iDEN network and related operations," said Michelle Leff, the spokeswoman. "That includes continuing to improve operations, making additional investments, entering into strategic partnerships, and considering potential divestitures." Confused yet? I know I am.
I believe Sprint has what it takes to build a unique image and reputation that will build its customer base. But the back-and-forth on iDEN isn't helping the carrier's cause. The carrier can keep both brands, but it needs to build a compelling list of services and phones on both sides that will distinguish it from other carriers. I know that isn't rocket science, but it's something the company has to do to stay relevant and innovative. It made a good showing at this month's CTIA, but it still has work to do.
Kent German, CNET's cell phones guru, answers your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories and reports on the state of the industry. Send him a question.