Cingular Shows You How NOT to Sell to Your Audience

In a recent advertising campaign, Cingular claims that they have the fewest dropped calls of any wireless network. What they don’t tell you is that dropped calls are not just a function of the network itself — other factors like the make and model of your phone play a huge role (which I’ll explain). Essentially, they’re masking other associated shortcomings by selling you a very compartmentalized view of their services. How does that sit with you?

From a marketing perspective, this could be considered savvy advertising, but I believe the nature of the beast is changing as blogs (and communications in general) grow and expand. In the land of Web 2.0, the mantra for Marketing 2.0 ought to go something like this: above all else, your claims and your words must be genuine.

Cingular says, “I hope you don’t notice…”

Here’s the recent Cingular ad (apologies to readers who don’t have Windows Media Player). Here’s what I can gather from the ad itself:

  • They’ve paid a lot of money for an “independent research company” to quantitatively determine that Cingular has the fewest dropped calls of any wireless carrier. Did they use different types of phones in their testing? Did they take a statistically significant sample across geographical areas of differing signal strength? Ellifino.
  • Clearly, they’re hoping like hell that you don’t know enough to sit through that commercial and then call it “hogwash.”

Unfortunately for Cingular, some consumers, myself included, are highly critical. I know for a fact that the two biggest variables in the dropped calls equation are network strength and type of phone. Type of phone, you say? Absolutely.

I have used the services of America’s big four (Cingular, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint), and I have also used multiple phones with each service. For the sake of argument, I’m only going to use T-Mobile and Sprint in this example, largely because I’ve used the widest array of phones for those services.


My first T-Mobile phone was a Samsung model that I dearly loved because I thought it looked cool. My “honeymoon” period with that phone quickly expired, though, when I realized that it would invariably drop calls at precise locations around town. Seriously, you could absolutely bank on losing your call at particular spots on the road. It was ridiculous.

At first, I thought the network just flat out sucked, but then I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a Nokia. Magically, this new phone would get no less than 2 bars of service where the old Samsung phone would predictably re-route my calls into the wireless abyss. In fact, during 5 months of using the T-Mobile Nokia, I never dropped a single call.


I’ve had like 10 different Sprint phones, but I’ll use my Sprint Ambassador phone, the Samsung MM A-920, as my first example. Just like my T-Mobile Samsung, the Sprint model drops calls in predictable locations around town. Yes, these are areas where the network signal is not as strong, but as was the case with T-Mobile, different phones eliminate this call-dropping problem.

Enter the Sanyo 8300 and the Nokia 6010. When I use either of these phones in the locations where the Samsung totally craps out, I magically have at least 2 bars of signal strength. Industry insiders will tell you that both Sanyo and Nokia have always had the inside track on providing better, more stable signal amplification, and I’m here to confirm that this is, in fact, the truth, regardless of carrier or network type (GSM vs. CDMA).

What does this all mean?

For starters, Cingular has a huge contract with Samsung, who I would argue produces the crappiest phones. LG, another big player for Cingular, also produces phones that rate low in the signal amplification department. In addition, Cingular has a large contract with Motorola, but the problem here is that Motorola has never really made a GSM phone that is worth a damn (their iDEN and CDMA phones, on the other hand, are awesome).

To me, Cingular’s new ad campaign looks like an obvious attempt to mask the fact that their phone offerings pretty much stink. The truth here is that outside of the RAZR (whose popularity is based on looks and hype), they simply can’t offer the phones that the public wants the most, so they have to resort to vague, disingenuous marketing tactics like those we see in this latest campaign.

Because I know what the truth is, I’m really put off by their ad. It irks me even more to know that the general public really doesn’t care what the truth is, and they’ll likely digest that ad at face value.

What this means for you and your blog

Treat your audience like this, and they’ll have you skewered and rotating over an open flame in no time. Blogging is a powerful equalizer, and over the last few years, we’ve seen a natural, organic system of checks and balances develop on the web.

It’s all about trust. If your audience trusts you, you’ll have the leverage necessary to purvey new ideas, sell products, or do just about anything else you like.

Cingular’s new ad campaign is not about trust at all. In fact, like I said earlier, they’re just hoping that you’re too dumb to write off their claim as the one-dimensional garbage that it is. Then again, they’re trying to sell you a product, and most advertising agencies will tell you that Cingular has done a good job of going out and doing just that.

Here’s what I say – don’t sell a product. Sell trust.

After all, do you think Seth Godin sold a zillion books because he ran a great targeted advertising campaign? Was it because he assembled the green berets of the guerrilla marketing industry? C’mon already! He’s been selling trust at his site for a long time, and the book sales are simply the evidence of a job well done.

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11 comments… read them below or add one

Anonymous April 26, 2006

Yeah, you’re right that it’s all about trust! But don’t trust your boyfriend to wake you up – because you will go to work looking like that pig or hog on the spit. Thanks a lot. Besides that, I really like this article on the phones and service. I give you an A+.


vicki April 27, 2006

They just tell us all to fuck off, knowing full well that our government reps are more than happy to sell us out to the highest bidder for campaign cash. Whores!


Lelia Katherine THomas April 27, 2006

I’ll apologize beforehand, as I may come off as a devil’s advocate here (sorry!). I actually do agree with you, but, for God’s sake, if you or anyone else doesn’t like how a company acts then don’t support it by spending your money with them. Talk is cheap; actions are priceless.

It’s really simple. If you hate a big corporation (and who doesn’t?), don’t add to its coffers, especially if what they’re providing is just a bonus to your lifestyle, not a necessity. People made it without cell phones in the past; if you want to be one of the ones (like me, for the most part) who doesn’t use one, then don’t. But most people, even those who don’t have the wool over their eyes from this marketing scheme, don’t feel it’s enough to give up nifty life accessory, whether that’s right or wrong.

The same goes for writers of web journals. One should never underestimate the power of human choice. Certainly, nothing’s making me read your journal right now–no matter how trustworthy you are. To me, it seems it all has a lot more to do with interest (and you have an interesting site) and convenience of the service/etc. you provide.


Chris P. April 27, 2006

Lelia, with all due respect, this post really had nothing to do with my opinions of Cingular at all.

You completely missed the point.


jangelo May 9, 2006

Wow! Is that a roast pig (called lechon from where I come from) in your third photo. Yum! I’d better bring out the anti-hypertension pills.


Sharon October 22, 2006

When I first got a phone it was a T-mobile. I had so many dropped calls i decided it was time to make a change. So i got a cingular phone and i had fewer dropped calls. It was amazing.


John October 25, 2006

this is pathetic, listen.. before you go off on your rant, know some facts.

I understand you are just a regular consumer who likes to think you know everything, but you really dont. Do the public a favor, and try to post opinions.. not made up facts

First off, regarding Cingular’s campaign, TELEPHIA is the organization that did the study. Telephia gets funds not just from Cingular, but from all major carriers. So please dont make up some bs that Cingular paid them off to come up with this bogus study.

Telephia ran their own study, and presented the results to all carriers privately. Cingular took advantage of that study, and developed this marketing campaign. Now heres proof that Telephia wasnt paid off, because they were pissed at Cingular for even mentioning their name. Telephia wanted to stay neutral and in no ways are trying to favor any carrier. Yet according to you, this is all a joint business venture out to shake the world.

Fact is, Cingular would never state anything they cant back up. Hence the reason why Sprints/Verizon’s lawsuit to dispute these claims went down the drain. Hence the reason why no major lawsuits from the public or consumer union ever took place ! Forget Cingular, Companies cant just come out and boast claims for the hell of it. Not on this magnitude, this isnt your local Jacks Fried Chicken stating they have the best wings in the area buddy.

And for you to come out and state, that PHONE Equipment makes a difference, oh yeah REALLY?? The same way a dvd player can make a dvd look like crap, or an ipod who makes digital audio sound like gold and etc.. and so forth. If a general wireless consumer, doenst realize this.. then thats not the carrier fault, its the consumer. Sorry, if you buy a crappy TV.. you dont go calling your cable provider telling them you expect HDTV quality !

Cingular controls the network, not the phones, but they do their best to test/analyze all offerings from the manufacturer. and if im not mistakened, this rule applies to all carriers. What you dont mention is that , its not that simple as black and white.

What is relative about this study is that its an overall results , testing based on multiple handsets in multiple regions. Yes, some hard critics or critic wannabees like yourself will say , But its not the same phone, or the trees werent as tall that day and so forth. These variables are as is, just like everyday life. Theres going to be sun one day, and rain the other but “OVERALL” (again , the magic word) , Cingular prevailed.

Another thing I would like to point out is your lack of phone equipment basics. You state that this campaign fails to mention other “basics” of the equation, and that suddenly CINGULAR as a whole is tryin to fool you all. Yet, you used a few phones from a manufacturer and suddenly the the company as a whole stinks as well? Cingular has a big contract with Samsung?? LOL ! Another made up lie, SAMSUNG okay,, has a big contract with everyone !!!!! Its their duty to research,devlop phones for all carriers whether CDMA or GSM. Please dont make some special relationships when there isnt any. Theres a reason why Tmobile and cingular have similar phones, and why Verizon and Sprint have similar. Its not COMPANY based, its Technology based, CDMA vs GSM .

There are so many models that you never touched, or probably dont even know of .. so for you to call out samsung, or LG and call it crap? Or to state Motorola makes bad phones besides CDMA / iden??

WHAT A JOKE ! Do some research buddy, Motorola is one of the largest GSM phone manufacturers in the world !! Along with Nokia. Want proof, find out how many GSM carriers/subscribers there are, vs IDen/CDMA. Sorry to burst your bubble, but besides the USA, GSM is used 99% in the world for wireless technology

Heres what you shoulldve stated in your so called article of truth, TRUTH is.. NO WIRELESS CARRIER IS BEST FOR ALL. As a consumer , it is your responsibility to make sure you know what is offered from all carriers, and which of those carriers can you give the most for what you want relative to coverage, phone features, data etc. Most of all, use some common sense for a change. There is a reason why carriers like Verizon and Cingular are the big dogs in the industry, and why Sprint/Nextel and Tmobile are fighting not be in first, but to make sure they arent LAST !

Folks, lets be real.. no ad, no campaign, nothing will make you believe something you dont want to. Its great for you to debate, to question.. something we need to do more in this country, but please dont get involved in the hype as stated here. Wireless is not perfect, and by far wont be there yet. But its getting close, and as time goes, technology gets better, youll know which carrier is best for you. btw, its not a coindence that guys like this .. like to make up posts to knock down big companies like Cingular who just so happens to be the #1 carrier in the US with 58 million customers

you talk about Trust, but theres one thing I would like to tell your readers.. is to definitely not TRUST YOU.


Chris P. October 25, 2006

I can’t imagine living my life tooting my horn for a company that I don’t own.

You must really enjoy things day-to-day.


abdul October 26, 2006

Well you got to be kidding me if someone actually thinks Cingular has a great service even a decent service. There plans suck, there coverage sucks, and they tell people A whole bunch of lies.
I have Cingular,
and still have Cingular and the pain i’m going to through with these people is imaginable. The service sucks,
I have the worst services compared to my friend’s carriers (t-mobile, verizoin, SPrintNextel).

I have the L7 slvr and they tell me my phone
somethings wrong with phone and i need to
use the warrenty replacement which i know for a fact is a whole bunch of BULL..cuz
the phone is brand new..but still i get the weakest signal. where do I leave you asK? metro atlanta. One of the biggest cities in da U.S. and they say they have the fewest dropped calls.”i can’t even get a call in”
call there
customer service 5 times and see what the all tell you. Each one of them would tell you something different, and
each one of them would offer you a great plan once you tell them that your transferring your number
to different carrier. I personally can’t stand Cingular and can’t wait for my contract to be over; wait
I’m not going to wait for my contract to be over. I’ll be more than happy to pay them 160 for Termination
just as long as the give me my number and leave me along with all that “BS!” Talking about the have the
nations fewest drop calls, and rasing the bar, and rollover minutes. “WHAT?” Rollover Minutes. MAN YOU GOT
TO HAVE THESE PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT THEM. Please just sue them and make em’ pay for every bill that
I had to pay more than 200 dollars. Which is like every Bill. AnD yeah if your wondering, “NO” I don’t
WORK FOR CINGULAR, or any of these other carriers. I just happen to be doing a compare and contrast paper about cell phone
carriers and I happen to stubble on these comments. THANKS GUYS


Collatz June 4, 2007

Yes your right about phones, its really not the service its the phone, so why not get Cingular/AT&T and get an Unlocked Motorola Sliver? It roams on any network so if any GSM phone has Service at any given location IT WILL TOO!


Hungry Vivi July 9, 2008

Great article and discussion, great food for thought, but i have to say that what catches my attention is the roasted pig, only the apple is missing and you would think we’re in Asterix. Never tried it but i bet it tastes just delicious!


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