Friday, September 17, 2010

You Can't Take It With You When It Dies

Ann Burr, a Frontier Communications executive, recently discussed the decline in landline phone use in an interview. Obviously, this is a very critical issue for the company and the local economy, where Frontier employs 1,300 people.

The catalyst for the interview was a recent government report that stated one in four households in the United States don't own a landline telephone anymore. And that number is rising. The same study done in May 2009 found that about 20 percent were landline free.

But Burr is taking the glass half full approach. She says that in Rochester more than 75 percent of homes still have a landline telephone. Just how much more is the question.

But her words hardly evoke optimism. "I don't see that for a long time," referring to the extinction of home phones. But the company's actions are the real tell. To keep their phone business alive, it has extended its brand, bundling phone service with television and high speed internet. And they are even testing a wireless service.

But an brand extension strategy won't translate into a leadership position with the updated technology.

Clear evidence of this can be found just a few of city blocks from the Frontier office. Kodak tried the same strategy to resurrect its brand name for the new digital age. However, when people hear the Kodak, they think of film.

Its a textbook example of what happens when a product category dies. You simply cannot the brand name with you.

A side note from the editor:

The answer to Frontier's problem may be in the first paragraph of the news report.

Double check what government agency issued the report. It wasn't the FCC. It wasn't even the FTC. It was the CDC; The Center for Disease Control. Why would they be interested in this information?

Perhaps because some scientists have linked major health risks such as brain tumors to heavy cell phone usage. Which keep on growing. Additionally, the amount of information wireless signals must carry keeps growing as well. So naturally, the signals that we expose ourselves to keep getting stronger.

Which may be the marketing fuel that Frontier needs. A great consumer influencer like fear. I would recommend putting resources into commissioning studies on cell phone health risks.

Similar to tobacco, make cell phones public enemy number one.

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