AT&T vs. Verizon … Again.

The AT&T and Verizon battle seems ancient – a clash of the cellular Titans, if you will. Internally, we’ve discussed the marketing strategies and implications of both at length. We eve posted this as part of a discussion of the AT&T vs. Verizon battle all the way back in November of 2009:

Our thoughts are that AT&T has their work cut out for themselves. Their positioning has been lacking for a long time. Verizon has been using the “It’s the Network” USP for years. The brand icon of the dude that says “can you hear me now?” is ingrained in consumers minds (well, our minds anyway).

AT&T has had a huge boost with the iPhone and has latched onto “The best 3G experience” as their message. But is it enough considering Verizon has branded itself as the superior network coverage provider for years? There will still be plenty of people who don’t care about the network because they just want an iPhone and right now, and the iPhone is only available through AT&T. But Verizon is working to get the iPhone too; what happens when you can get it through both providers? Will Verizon’s years of investment in branding pay off?

Pretty badass forethought, huh? We’re like, brand fortune tellers! But seriously, now that Verizon has announced it will be carrying the iPhone we think the years of investment in branding WILL pay off. I’m not saying that all the AT&T customers will go flocking to Verizon on Feb 10th. But I do think there are plenty of people who think there’s a better network coverage option with Verizon (their brand and their customers say so). And when their contract is up, I don’t think all those AT&T customers are going to stay with the “fastest network” carrier over the largest network coverage carrier.

Now, I’ll give credit where credit is due. AT&T has definitely stepped up their marketing efforts over the past few years. The brand has made a play to show how large its network is with the “Rethink possible” campaign, and how fast its network is with the “Don’t be left behind” spots. But I think Verizon’s brand (and network coverage to back it up) is still more powerful. Verizon was the first to say it: “we have the best network coverage nationwide.” And they’ve backed up that claim, so the brand has become quite cemented in the minds of consumers. While AT&T’s fastest network messaging is solid – many consumers may think that it’s not worth having the speed on a network that doesn’t have consistent coverage.

This is a super complex marketing discussion, one we couldn’t even begin to cover in one blog post. But the bottom line is Apple leveled the playing field by adding Verizon to its list of providers. Now that consumers have a choice of the same phone on different networks, it’s up to the power of the brands (among other things) to retain market share. And I say – advantage Verizon.

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