US Cellular is at it again, launching a new ad campaign that tries to downplay the importance of the phones people use and highlight instead the quality of their network. Called “Hello Better”, the campaign has one ad in particular that I wanted to address. In it, a man who claims to represent an competing wireless company tries to woo back a customer (who just happens to be an older gentleman) by offering them a “wonderphone” that does all sorts of relatively useless things. The customer asks “does it make calls?” and “does it get good reception where I need it?”, to which the wireless rep says “no … but” and continues to list off the useless apps the phone has. The commercial ends with the tagline “Goodbye Deception. Hello Reception”.
As I’ve written before, I applaud US Cellular for trying to highlight their purported strengths: a quality network and high customer satisfaction. And I appreciate the competition they are offering against the bigger carriers in regards to contracts and phone upgrades. But let’s stop with silliness of trying to pretend that smartphones are somehow all fluff and that the phone people use doesn’t matter. It just makes US Cellular look out of touch and out of date. While this type of marketing may appeal to certain technophobic demographics, that’s a losing proposition in the long run.
The New World of Technology is here and society is getting increasingly tech savvy, especially the older generations. While not all smartphones or tablets are easy or reliable, Apple is the dominant player and their products are attracting waves of former technophobes, including older people. Trying to sell people on the idea that their phones of choice are silly wastes of time is going to actually turn off a lot of people, marginalizing your target market to a demographic that is steadily shrinking.
In my prior article I noted how carriers that don’t have the iPhone are losing customers to those carriers that do. US Cellular reportedly turned down a chance to carry the iPhone. They seem to want to fight a battle pitting their network vs. Apple’s iPhone. Given what the iPhone has done to the entire technology market (goodbye BlackBerry), US Cellular may want to rethink their strategy.