Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sprint Through Taking It On the Chin? A Look at A New Tactic

Embattled telecom giant Sprint is apparently through taking it on the chin.

You've seen the Alltel spots that take humorous cheap shots at their competitors ("Wizard!"), but Verizon has stepped it up a notch, going after Sprint's push-to-talk service

In a recent pitch to tech bloggers, the Overland Park, KS-based company used a little humor to jab at Verizon's latest attempt to chip away at Sprint's customer base.

The cartoon (above), takes a bite out of the iconic Verizon "can you hear me now?" character, implying that the emperor (Verizon) has no clothes when it comes to push-to-talk. Sprint talking points were included with the cartoon, including this critical fact:

Sprint has more than 15 years of expertise and is the undisputed leader in push to talk services. Our competitor has just launched their “new” service and has less than 4 years of total experience in offering push to talk.

Sprint ends on this note:

How does that old saying go? “The greatest form of flattery is imitation.” Well, that’s what our competitor is doing with their new service. However, when it comes to push-to-talk, there is no imitating Nextel Direct Connect. Nice try; maybe they’ll get the hang of it . . . someday.

The Sauce:

We give this tactic an A- for creativity and execution. Going after niche tech sites is a smart move, one that every business or organization--large or small--should seriously consider as part of their public awareness and image management efforts. It has a lot going for it in concept, but it shouldn't be a one-time thing. Sprint needs to keep this sort of guerilla tactic in its overall PR/Media mix.

I (and others who have commented on the cartoon and concept) think it would be cool to make the cartoon concept into a commercial starring a familiar face; perhaps bring back the Sprint "Trenchcoat Guy," who in his heyday was as well-known as the mousy Verizon character. (Some may disagree.) Or maybe put a fun spin on it and put new Sprint CEO Dan Hesse in the trenchcoat?

Sprint has also been impressive and smart with its use of new CEO Hesse in recent "Wireless Revolution" spots. They've taken a faceless "Big Corporation" with a poor customer service reputation and given it an amiable, solid "go-to guy" who even puts his email address out there so you can contact him. We're reasonably sure he's not answering every email, but it's good public relations all the same.

Sprint still has light years to go in the quest for regaining its market share and the glory days of its brand; but clever tactics like this are a smart move.

Think this tactic is only useful for big companies? Au contraire, mon frère. This is actually a tactic that benefits smaller companies most. Why? Reason one is because they are generally more agile and can respond to market forces and public relations buzz more quickly.

Let's hear your comments on this--post them below. Also, contact us for ways we can help your business use humor tactics to raise awareness and boost market share.

Disclosure: The writer of this post is a Sprint stockholder and is directly related to a Sprint employee.

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