Corporate Eye

AT&T Embraces Emotional Branding in Ad Campaign

at&t wireless iphoneWho said a telecommunications brand can’t pique consumers’ emotions? AT&T proved that it could successfully tap into consumers’ emotions decades ago with its “Reach out and touch someone” campaigns. While the brand has lost some of its emotional connection to consumers in recent years, the marketing team has been trying to turn that around over the past 12 months with an ad campaign that is laser-focused on emotional branding.

John McDermott of Advertising Age reports that the AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” campaign, which features first graders discussing AT&T’s mobile service with an adult, has been very successful in emotionally connecting consumers to the AT&T brand. Both consumers and AT&T employees (the brand’s most powerful advocates) are reacting positively to the campaign.

You can watch one of the commercials in the campaign below.

This is good news for AT&T, a brand known for wireless coverage in the United States that is significantly inferior to the market leader, Verizon Wireless. McDermott reports that AT&T isn’t focusing on its competitors in its marketing strategy but rather the company is planning to extend its wireless offerings in the future. The question at this point is whether building an emotional connection through an ad campaign will work in the long-term if AT&T can’t back up the feelings its ads evoke with products that deliver on consumer demands.

Google succeeded in its attempt to build an emotional connection between consumers and its brand with its 2011 Google Chrome ad campaign and again with its 2012 Google Zeitgest video. However, Google was able to meet consumers’ expectations for its brand, so the emotional connection was a significant enhancement to the brand’s existing value.

Years ago, I worked for AT&T, and at the time, I was proud to be an AT&T employee. It was my first marketing job out of college, and I still have an AT&T paperclip holder sitting on my desk as I type this article. I have hope for the AT&T brand. Step one — set consumer expectations and consistently meet those expectations. An emotional connection will develop organically, which can be fostered through emotional advertising. Only time will tell what the rumored AT&T wireless brand extensions will be and whether or not they’ll be enough to make consumers believe in the AT&T brand again.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts below.

Image: Robert S. Donovan

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.