What Should You Sell? Trust!


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 (edit: link removed). 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 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 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.