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AT&T outlines Cingular re-branding plans ahead of iPhone launch

AT&T on Monday confirmed plans to accelerate the re-branding of Cingular wireless stores under the AT&T umbrella ahead of Apple's iPhone roll-out, which the carrier is billing as "one of the most highly anticipated wireless products in recent history."

Overnight, AT&T kicked off the final phase of the initiative by replacing the Cingular brand with AT&T on all in-store signage, store kiosks, and point-of-sale materials in approximately 1,800 company-owned wireless retail stores. In addition, key stores in major markets also unveiled new exterior signage displaying the new brand.

The nation's largest wireless carrier said the decision to step up the branding campaign is based on research that indicates that consumer awareness of AT&T is high and ahead of expectations.

"Consolidating BellSouth and Cingular under the AT&T brand was based on extensive market research and is proving to be the right decision," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chief operating officer. "Our branding campaign is performing at and above projected levels and customer response has been very positive. We are excited to move into the next phase of transforming AT&T into the only communications provider our customers will ever want."

The San Antonio-based telecommunications firm said the store makeovers are also critical to prepare for the late-June launch of the Apple iPhone, for which it will be the exclusive wireless provider in the United States. Many company-owned stores have also installed kiosks promoting the complete array of AT&T services — wireless, high speed Internet, TV and home phone.

As part of its branding initiative, AT&T said it is also now beginning to replace Cingular with the AT&T brand in voice greetings, on new customer handsets and handset screen displays and on envelopes and statements. In addition, exteriors of most company-owned retail locations are expected to be branded as AT&T by September, with branding of agent-owned retail stores expected to be completed by January 2008.

"Many of the company's high-profile sponsorships such as 'American Idol' and NASCAR will be transitioned soon as well," the company said in a statement.

In terms of advertising, TV, radio and outdoor ads are expected to incorporate transitional elements related to the AT&T and the Cingular brands, but will feature AT&T much more prominently. For example, the transitional phrase, "Wireless from AT&T, formerly Cingular," has begun replacing the phrase, "Cingular is now the new AT&T."

As part of the transition, AT&T said it plans to slowly phase out the use of Cingular's orange "Jack" logo but will continue to use the color orange in conjunction with wireless services from AT&T.

The spot uses a high-tech nesting Russian doll as a metaphor for the company's complete and seamless integration of TV, high speed Internet, home phone and wireless services. Radio, outdoor and online advertisements also reflect the move to make the addition of wireless, the "complete provider" message, and AT&T in general, more prominent.

"The newest phase of our branding campaign communicates that AT&T is a leader in wireless as well as in other communications and entertainment services," said Wendy Clark, senior vice president — AT&T Advertising. "Our goal is to let the public know that AT&T offers perhaps the best choices, values and convenience in the marketplace across our extensive portfolio for the communications services they want and need."

As all operations are moved under a single brand, AT&T said it expects to realize related synergies with an estimated net present value of approximately $2.8 billion.