With brand trust at an all-time low, marketers are scrambling to provide their customers with authentic, personalized content. For Kevin Peck, AT&T’s Senior Vice President Global Branding – Technology, Media and Telecom, it all comes down to a deep understanding of what customers need and a rigorous commitment to delivering it.
Speaking recently at Strategic Marketing USA, a Reuters Event that assembled more than 5,000 virtual attendees, Peck shared an emotional account of communications failures during the September 11 attacks and AT&T’s subsequent development of FirstNet, a network for first responders.
“Building a state-of-the-art highway in the sky, just for first responders, and creating new tools to help first responders do their jobs was a point of pride at AT&T – one that had everyone ecstatic to put our brand all over it,” said Peck. “We were proud to be affiliated with the effort and we wanted everyone to know.”
Simple AT&T branding would have been the obvious choice for high exposure, but it would not have taken into consideration the unique needs of first responders and their skepticism of brands in general. It was important to create a brand that would resonate and align with multiple branches of service. “The bar for first responders is extremely high,” said Peck. “It’s literally life and death for them.”
The end result was a brand that was purpose-built just for first responders. AT&T’s name is present in the branding, but with less emphasis and not as much as an identifier as an assurance of legitimacy, reliability, and trust. It was a risk to forgo the main company brand, but the response to FirstNet has been overwhelmingly positive and has continued to have positive spinoffs for AT&T.
“Everything was going great and then COVID struck,” said Peck.
Leaning into the crisis
Since March 2020, AT&T’s spirit of service – something Peck says resides within the company’s very DNA – has spilled over into many new endeavors as organizations in nearly every state requested FirstNet capabilities. New points of pride include creating reduced-priced offers for eligible nurses and doctors, establishing a $10 million fund for tools to support at-home learning, helping school districts ramp up their technology infrastructure, and offering teachers 25% savings on a variety of wireless plans.
“At a time when companies weren’t sure of the future, we leaned into the crisis,” said Peck, concluding his session with an appeal for marketers to be prepared to adapt their brand and evolve their business to ensure the longevity of both.