In the afternoon, on walks in Sarasota, I often see remnants of the old GTE, or General Telephone and Electronics. The name and logo appears on manhole covers, telephone pole signs and on junction boxes on houses. It keeps advertising GTE, and will keep doing so for the next 100 or so years. There is no way for Verizon, which purchased GTE, to get rid of all the instances; in a declining industry where competition is a $36 a year MagicJack, why would they invest in new manhole covers?
GTE was a potent brand name. With their famous “GEE, no GTE” commercials, they carved a brand for themselves between AT&T, General Electric, Western Electric and a slew of Baby Bells like C&P. The question is why didn’t Verizon, when it merged with GTE, figure a way to use the GTE brand as a sub-brand or corporate brand? The reason is simple. They didn’t know any better.
GTE dates from 1959 when General Telephone and Sylvania Electric Products merged. The merger gave Sylvania, then a technology and consumer products company, the capital to grow. And for the telephone side, it meant a backbone for research, manufacturing and developing new telecom and electronics technology.
Verizon has done a diservice to even the Bell System logo, which it had a right to use. Bell was one of the best-known and most trusted logos in the world, but it hardly ever uses that logo, except on a few trucks. So who would expect that Verizon could find a use for GTE, a smaller competitor that it bought out?
It got us thinking. If Bell System and GTE are wasted telephone company brands, what are some other telecom brands that have been wasted through mergers? (Note: There are still a few old regional telephone brands around.)
- MCI. This brand still rings “cheap” to me. The issue with Worldcom was a distraction and had nothing to do with the appeal of MCI, which stood for great priced long distance.
- Cingular. The little orange Cingular mascot still appears on my telephone, and I miss it. Yes, I am happy that the AT&T name was preserved when they merged with Cingular, but that doesn’t mean that the Cingular name had no value. Perhaps the Cingular name could be used for a sub-brand of AT&T, or leased out to cellphone peripherals sold at stores like Kmart and Walmart.
- Western Electric This was the brand of equipment of the Bell System. The brand survives as a tube manufacturer, but could be used for any technology company that wanted to be a leader in equipment.
- Long Lines was the sub-brand of AT&T that covered microwave and long-distance telephone circuits. While technology made the idea a bit out-dated, we still have a need for long distance IP circuits. The genius of the Long Lines microwave towers is that many are now used for cellular service.
- Regional Bell Names: We think these names would do well to sell analog service, where it remains, or telephone plans geared to the old and fuddy duddy or the young and fuddy duddy. The names could easily be used for service plans; a special commemorative Chesapeake and Potomac service level plan could be offered with FIOS in the mid-Atlantic. Ditto with some of the other Bell names.