With more messages coming at audiences through more channels, solid branding strategy has to focus on "cutting through the clutter."

For those unfamiliar with this phrase, cutting through the clutter means getting attention for your messages relative to all the other messages "cluttering" you target audience’s attention.

Last week, Sprint tried cutting through the clutter with me (although they had already done it in an odd and annoying way with the Narwhals ad and the previous Framily ads).

The most recent attempt to cut through the clutter came via a FedEx envelope arriving in the late afternoon. It contained a letter from the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Sprint and a flier comparing Sprint to T-Mobile on price and performance. The letter set the stage, acknowledging consumers make mobile provider decisions based on rates and network quality. The brochure put Sprint up against T-Mobile, making the case for why we should switch from T-Mobile.


As a nearly twenty-year customer of a Sprint competitor, going the extra step to attempt cutting through the clutter by reaching me in a surprising format for the product category makes sense.

Here's the thing, however.

I'm a Verizon customer. I've never used T-Mobile.


Cutting through the Clutter Isn't Everything in the Branding Strategy

Sprint cut through the clutter, got my attention, and then completely screwed up the message by demonstrating it had no clue about me. I immediately transferred the lack of knowledge Sprint has of me as a prospect to how little they would know or care about me as a customer!

After posting this picture on Facebook, I learned a high school classmate who IS A SPRINT CUSTOMER received the very same FedEx letter. Sending a competitor comparison to a current customer takes even more of the cake than sending one to the wrong competitor’s customer.

The lesson?

This seems like an example of incompletely answering our favorite strategic thinking question, "What are we trying to achieve?"

Cutting through the clutter of mobile provider marketing messages is ONE THING Sprint is trying to achieve. Mission accomplished.

But that wasn't the COMPLETE answer.

Sprint is trying to win business from T-Mobile customers, obviously. If that's the case, basic strategic thinking should have led the folks behind the campaign to invest the time and effort to:

  1. Get good data to understand who the T-Mobile customers are, and
  2. Devise a messaging strategy that would still make sense if the data were bad.

Great marketing is great from the initial idea all the way through to implementation and follow up.

Bad marketing generally goes south right from the start, especially when no one is asking the right questions AND demanding the right answers that steer it toward greatness. -  Mike Brown


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