Instead of focusing on the great things it already does, T-Mobile continues to waste its time poking fun at AT&T.
When T-Mobile sent out its intentionally odd and misquoting press release Tuesday to drive home the point that it really, really doesn’t like AT&T, it may have taken things a bit too far. There's a thin line between poking the bear and putting off potential customers. Making up quotes from a rival company's CEO might well have crossed that line — even more so when you're criticizing a company with over three times the customers and dozens of times the earnings.
But it's not just this one-off situation that is a cause for concern ... I'm worried that T-Mobile may not know when it's the right time to tone down the language and scale back the stunts.
You see, T-Mobile — mostly lead by the antics of CEO John Legere — has been doing its best to mix things up in the U.S. wireless industry. That's been a very good thing. What started as simply beating the other carriers by announcing genuinely consumer-friendly prices, service terms and network performance has been cast in the shadow of rude ads, foul language and now a pointless low-blow press release.
These actions certainly get attention, but do they translate into long-term customer growth and improved public opinion of the T-Mobile brand? I'm not so sure they do.
Building brand awareness by any means necessary
When AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile finally fell through, the carrier pivoted quickly in the next year to capitalize on the new influx of cash and spectrum it was due after the failed deal. At the same time, T-Mobile was ready to kick off a branding renaissance, led by the newly-appointed CEO Legere.
There's no doubt about it, Legere is a savvy businessman who knows his way around the wireless industry — even holding high-ranking positions at AT&T in the past. He's plenty qualified to run T-Mobile from a boardroom and business operations point-of-view.
Legere's job is to get the T-Mobile name out there and get folks excited to walk into stores.
So why does Legere feel the need to make a scene on stage, in papers, on TV, with press releases and tweets specifically to make fun of the other carriers for their branding or their CEOs physical appearance? His biggest job at the moment is to bring attention to the new "Uncarrier" brand by any means necessary.
And to be fair, this approach is working right now. T-Mobile is on the tip of everyone's tongues — not just the mobile enthusiasts, but average people who are potential customers for the carrier. Legere is on the evening news when he does a press conference, interview or starts going after folks on Twitter. Right now, his job is to get the T-Mobile name out there and get people curious enough to walk into stores — the process of converting those people into paying customers is secondary.
But at what cost?
The problem with this is that the average wireless customer in the U.S. really doesn't give a damn what your company thinks of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint or their respective CEOs. People care about the size of their bill at the end of the month, what phones and tablets they can buy and the size and speed of the cellular network.
T-Mobile has plenty of ammunition, on subjects consumers actually care about, to hit the others with.
T-Mobile's new Simple Choice plans really are cheaper for most U.S. consumers that currently shovel money to the other big three carriers. Its device portfolio closely matches (or even beats) the other carriers as well. T-Mo will pay you to leave your current carrier, and at the same time won't force you to stay with it for more than a month at a time after you switch. These are the pillars of the Uncarrier transition, and they're all things consumers love to see.
Taking into consideration that T-Mobile has so many tangible differentiators between it and the other carriers, it makes little sense to me why Legere and the company as a whole need to take the low road. It simply reeks of desperation and grasping at straws, especially when T-Mobile has plenty of ammunition — on subjects that consumers actually care about — to hit the other carriers with.
Keep making your plans and pricing simple and understandable, continue expanding your LTE network to even more people and above all do right by your customers. That's how you add 1.6 million customers in a single quarter, grow your earnings and most importantly become the one major U.S. carrier that people don't just need, but want to use.
'Stop the bullshit'
I like most of what T-Mobile is doing in terms of changing the wireless industry. I'd just like John Legere to take one tip from his own playbook and "stop the bullshit." Focus on making T-Mobile the best damn wireless carrier in the U.S. and leave the other guys in your rear view mirror, right where you postulate they belong every single day.