May 05, 2006

Cingular - Goodbye Name I Once Kept In My Underwear Drawer

Om has a good post on the branding dilemma -- I guess one that has now been solved -- over what name and brand to leverage in the AT&T / Bellsouth / Cingular deal. I happen to agree with Om that the AT&T name makes a better umbrella brand. However, I wouldn't get rid of the Cingular sub-brand either. In other words, if AT&T is the body telco, then keeping Cingular as the funky feet makes sense.

But what do I know?

I do know that we'll be here again in ten years or less, when we assess the names of the diverse entities being spun out. It's all part of the cycle that we've been through before -- we roll in, then we spin out; we absorb, and then we expel -- it's the drama of economy. If marketing and PR didn't have re-branding to do, we'd have no work at all. Break it down: We build brands, stabilize brands, grow brands, and re-brand.

More importantly for me, the whole Cingular-name-going-away deal marks a kind of milestone, a passing of an era. That's because I was one of the first dozen or so people to know the name of the Cingular brand before it was launched, when it was so secret that my boss -- the head of the Ketchum Atlanta office which was tagged as the lead office in handling the launch -- gave it to me in his car on a piece of paper, then nearly had me escorted home under fear of death and mutilation lest I have a fender bender.

Mandate: Do not breath a word about the name, don't even say it out loud. Not to my family. Not to anyone. Seriously. Our jobs depended on it not being leaked.

Sounds melodramatic now, but I'm telling you, it was no joke at the time. This was the stealth beginning to a brand name and identity no one knew, except for the key team in the uber-secret meetings that put the C in singular and Jack on the map.

Why did I have to know? My job was to come up with some initial messaging around the name. As in, what did it mean. Why Cingular? Why not Singular. What did the "C" mean. What did the name mean? And I got to do that by myself. At home. In a little secret corner of my little secret room.

I had 9 bullets on a piece of paper and one name: cingular. In my head I played around with it and laughed, saying a hard "C" instead of a soft one: Kingular. hee hee. In the end, I did my job.

And I kept the secret. I hid that piece of paper my underwear drawer for a month before the name was officially out. I still have it somewhere.

Maybe now's a good time to put it on ebay?

Bye-bye, Jack.

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