Promoting the T-Mobile-Sprint merger with a clear and upbeat message

T-Mobile has agreed to acquire Sprint. But the two mobile carriers need regulatory approval to go forward with their merger. Rather than the usual lobbying, they’ve released a video. It’s notable for its clear, simple message addressed directly to consumers.

Here’s the video, which already has 84,000 views.

Reducing a complex message to simple and clear statements

The two mobile carriers have a big job: convincing regulators that reducing the US market for mobile carriers from four players to three is not anticompetitive. To do so, they need to convince people that the true market here is all of broadband, including players like Comcast and Spectrum.

But T-Mobile CEO John Legere (the guy in the pink shirt) has already turned the mobile industry upside down with his consumer-focused, reduce-the-fees uncarrier strategy. This gives him the opportunity to describe the merger as pro-consumer.

Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure start with a simple message: this merger will reduce prices, create a new converged broadband/wireless market, and create jobs. The new converged market is based on “5G,” a new and more capable network, which is really what they’re selling here.

Note how these claims appear within the first 40 seconds. Legere is not burying the lede here; his message is clear.

Here are a few quotes that demonstrate the claims that T-Mobile and Sprint are making.

  • “The difference between 4G and 5G is the difference between black and white TV and color TV.”
  • “Only the new T-Mobile will have the network and spectrum capacity to quickly create a broad and deep 5G network.”
  • “Only T-Mobile and Sprint can do this together. We can’t do this separately, and neither can Verizon or AT&T.”
  • The new network will have “30 times more capacity than T-Mobile today and speeds that are up to 100 times faster.”.
  • “It’s critically important that America and American companies lead in the 5G era.”
  • “5G will mean the combined company can create robust competition in wireless and beyond.”
  • “Wireless, video,and broadband are all converging.”
  • “It’s not the big four [wireless companies] anymore, it’s the big seven or eight [including broadband internet providers].”
  • This will “drive down prices, especially in rural America.”
  • “51% of Americans have only one option for their broadband provider.”
  • “We will build hundreds of stores and hire thousands of people to compete in rural America.”
  • “The New T-Mobile will create thousands of jobs. . . . This deal is a net creator of jobs.”
  • “The combined company will invest over $40 billion . . . over the next three years. That is going to create economic stimulus . . . leading to thousands of new jobs.”

Who’s watching this anyway?

True, there are plenty of weasel words in this message, like “robust” and “up to 100 times faster.” It’s full of claims, many of which are unsupported.

But unlike other mergers, the telecom industry actually has a reputation for delivering more value at lower cost by investing in infrastructure. And T-Mobile has a reputation of innovation, at least in marketing, that benefits consumers — that’s the “Uncarrier” pitch. So their message is at least credible, if not fully convincing.

The interesting question here is, who is this pitch aimed at?

Regulators are going to dig into the details. A 7-minute video of generalities won’t matter to them.

There are actually multiple other audiences here.

This is aimed at consumers, to make them either enthusiastic or at least tolerant of the merger. Consumers don’t vote on mergers, but their resistance can make it hard for regulators and politicians to approve them.

It is aimed at shareholders, to get them behind the deal.

It is aimed at Congress, to get them to believe this is going to create economic growth and jobs, reduce costs, and improve capability.

And it is aimed at Donald Trump. The broad and simple messages about jobs, leadership, and rural America seem particularly focused on Trump.

This is fascinating, because Trump is not supposed to have input into regulatory decisions (despite his carping about the AT&T/Time Warner/CNN merger) and jobs and economic growth are not supposed to be at issue. Regulators are supposed to worry only about the benefit or detriment for consumers in reduced competition. But if the Congress and Trump get behind this, regulators may come around to this new point of view that there is a single broadband market with lots of competitors, not a four-way mobile scrum with one player dropping out.

Appealing so directly to consumers rather than regulators for a merger is a very different approach. But creating clarity about things like converged infrastructure is a necessary step here. T-Mobile and Sprint’s education campaign makes sense. And it may become a model for future mergers that demand a different view of where the world is going.

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