American mobile service provider AT&T has announced that it will be launching its new 4G network in 5 cities this summer investigate this site. Except that AT&T already has a network that it calls 4G – but that one is currently an HSPA+ network, which is technically 3G. And the new one is an LTE network, which is technically called 3GPP and “does not fully comply with the IMT Advanced 4G requirement.” And also the new “4G” network might not actually be as fast as the old “4G” network.
All clear? Of course not, but that’s actually great news for AT&T.
In classic brand architecture terms, this is what we in the business call a “complete mess”. Your average consumer has no way to make sense of the service being provided or compare it to competing offers.
AT&T and Other Mobile Providers Don’t Want it to Make Sense
This isn’t necessarily a conspiracy on the part of the wireless carriers. It’s just that real-world performance is inconsistent, unpredictable and impossible to compare beyond specific hardware in a specific place at a single moment in time. So instead of trying to make clear claims that their customers may then hold them accountable for, these companies intentionally use an indecipherable alphabet soup of acronyms, standards, metrics and buzzwords to imply innovation and performance.
And it works. 4G sounds better than 3G, two 4G networks sound better than one and you’re telling me I can have both HSPA+ and LTE at my disposal? I don’t know what they are but how did I ever live without them?!?
Sometimes There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Features
Here’s another example: if you’re not a runner yourself, it’s a safe bet you know one. Assuming you or s/he isn’t a barefoot runner, take a look at your/her/his preferred shoes and count the number of branded features they tout.
The Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX® trail runner features:
The Asics Gel Nimbus® 13 running shoe has:
Even this brand-savvy author’s morning jog was completed in a pair of Kalenji Kapteren XT’s, complete with CS®, Arkstab® and BiPron® technology. And, frankly, those features helped make the sale, despite the fact that we have no idea what they mean or what benefit they provide. They created a diffuse but visceral sense that the shoe was engineered to deliver real performance.
Use With Caution
Don’t get us wrong – this post is not an endorsement of patenting, branding and furiously marketing every feature or function you can jam into your product. In commodity categories (gasoline, clothing, cleaning products) or in categories where customers want and are willing to do real comparisons (banking, education, virtually all B2B sales) complexity sows confusion and confusion drives customers away. But in many others (personal computers, mattresses, mountain bikes) there are compelling reasons to keep marketing and brand architecture complex. In categories where high performance matters, to strive for simplicity may simply be too simplistic.