Sprint: Can you hear me ‘now’? The day Sprint shifted the culture of wireless

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Almost every brand has some type of cultural icon. Something or someone who defines what they are and what they stand for. These culture representative are almost like a monument for their company, creating a following of consumers, who actively seek these symbols to help them distinguish one brand from another. Essentially, these icons are what people look for when they want “the best” versus “the rest.” Whether it be Tony the Tiger for Frosted flakes or the Mac vs. PC guy for Apple computers, these cultural images are what draw us into companies and almost instinctively makes us select those brands over others who may be just as good. Companies purposely embed their cultural icons in our psyche. They repeatedly use every outlet possible including ads, commercials, and articles to ensure consumers know who they are and how to find them.  But what happens when your cultural icon isn’t yours anymore?  What happens to those associations, does it change what you stand for? How does it make the company look?

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Verizon for years has been known as the best wireless company.With its great service, fewer dropped calls, and great data speeds. They were unmatched by other wireless carriers led the wireless network game for years. Verizon first established their dominance in their first commercial featuring the “Can you hear me now?” guy name Paul Marcarelli. For years, he represented Verizon and his phrase became synonymous with Verizon culture for being the best. Sprint on the other hand has almost been the second best company to Verizon, and Verizon capitalized on Sprint’s faults by emphasizing how their service was top rated next to their competitor Sprint.  Followers of this culture believed this to be true and selected the company over Sprint, even paying higher prices because of this concept. However, Sprint was resilient and worked diligently over the years to compete with the wireless leader, Verizon, and ultimately came within 1% of Verizon’s network capabilities. The rise of the underdog led to a great culture shift in wireless networking, the “Can you hear me now?” guy that had represented the values of Verizon for so many years had now jumped ship to Sprint.

This redefining moment for Spring created a major culture shift. Followers of Verizon’s commercial now had to question their choice of phone company. What once represented the greatness of Verizon, now is being used to reshape the perceptions of Sprint. Verizon lost one of the major icon that made them unique, which now gave Sprint more credibility as a company. Sprint now too can represent quality, great data speed, and all the other aspects that once drew customers to Verizon with the added bonus of being less expensive.  Sprint acquiring Paul Marcarelli, shows that they understand the value of the culture.  Verizon created “the test guy” and Sprint made him better without losing sight of their core values and strategies for improving themselves. Because of this Sprint was able to reshape their own culture and the culture of wireless all together.

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