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August 15, 2008



I don't think overbearing marketing is unique to mobile phone companies. It might feel worse because unlike most other utilities, mobile firms are vertically integrated - they own almost *everything* - the infrastructure, the services, even the handsets. And digital convergence means all comms firms are crowding onto a few small patches of lawn: phones, internet, TV. What you're feeling is 'the marketing reality of network society' / insert Castells quote here.

As for hipsters, I think Adbusters is being a bit unfair. They know all about selling rebellion, don't they? This response by Momus is good (try and ignore his eyepatch):


... frankly, the real enemy of Western civilisation is here:


Come back Jont, all is forgiven ...

Will Davies

Yes, fair enough. The adbusters thing is indeed a bit full-on, but since it is a bit a meme at the moment, it got me thinking.

(Note to self: find something less grumpy to say on blog)


"Someone has to provide the network within which all this micro-entrepreneurial, micro-commodification takes place, and the network is neither small nor cheap. It is not built by amateurs or even by entrepreneurs, it involves no accoustic guitars; it is an old-style industrial venture with huge sunk costs. To be commercially viable, such a network must have millions of users, each of whom prefers to identify as an increasingly narrow cultural segment. Our cultural-economic drift towards the niche, the hip and the grass roots is dependent on infrastructure that is definitively none of those things."

Perhaps now would be a good time to nationalise it again (after a pogrom of those marketing execs, obviously)?

Will Davies

Interesting, especially since they don't seem willing to behave competitively without the insistence of OfCom and the European Commission.

I guess the driving reason for not doing so would be the vision of British Telecom employees in the early 1980s, sitting around drinking tea all day...

Benedict Evans

Hi Will!

The interesting thing is that despite selling an essentially commodity product, these companies DO have pretty strong brand images. Orange has very low penetration amongst working-class urban customers, for example, and not because of the pricing.

The really funny thing is that Virgin Mobile customers are convinced their network has better coverage than T-Mobile, when actually Virgin are just renting the T-Mobile network and sticking a different brand and pricing structure on top. Amazing what a a man in a beard will do for you.

Compare with :
i) oil companies - ecveryone knows the brand, but does anyone think 'I'll fill up at Shell, not BP, because Shell are better'?
ii) Movie companies - everyone's heard of Universal Pictures etc, but can you name who made the Hollywood blockbuster you saw?

Anyway, all this mobile branding stuff made a lot more sense 10 years ago when they had to persuade normal people that even having one of these things was a good idea.

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