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How Claure can fix Sprint as it battles T-Mobile

New CEO must lower prices for Sprint products and services, offer guarantees and be the company's frontman, analysts say

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Much of Sprint's improvement would come via a major marketing push led by a more forceful CEO -- Claure, the three analysts agreed. They termed Sprint's marketing efforts in the past 18 months as "lackluster," and even "silly."

For example, analysts said the Sprint Framily plan TV ads seem to target young customers and mimic T-Mobile's aggressive courting of a younger clientele, but the effort has largely failed. And it makes Sprint look bad, they added.

"The Framily marketing seems to be done by an old person for a young person audience," Menezes said. "Sprint needs to revamp marketing, which SoftBank has done well in Japan. Price-cutting will get attention and grab customers."

Claure and Sprint's marketers need to focus on selling values of trust, confidence and reliability, Menezes said.

"Customers wonder, 'Am I getting a good value or am I going to get trapped with Sprint?'" he said. "And it's more important because Sprint might drop to fourth place after being in third place for so long."

Claure clearly has imagination and, based on his experience at Brightstar, can be aggressive in identifying gaps in what the market offers and what he can best leverage for a bigger success, Menezes said.

"He's an entrepreneur, which is what they need now," Menezes said. "He can take out-of-box thinking and knows how to turn that into reality. Hesse was a steady hand, but didn't have that quality."

The analysts also said that Claure can be a forceful front man for Sprint without stooping to the antics of Legere.

"Claure can be upfront, but in a much more cultured manner," Menezes said. "Maybe Claure can be forceful or even emotional -- he's Latin after all -- without coming out looking like a caricature."

Even so, the way Legere has performed in public press conferences and in seemingly endless taunting tweets haven't hurt T-Mobile, something that should be informative to Claure and his marketing team. "Legere is starting to get into clown territory now, but that hasn't hurt him," Menezes said.

Entner added: "Legere gets a lot of free advertising out of his gimmicks, but if he didn't have a network to back up his words and offers that were differentiated, then he would be a clown. When his company is able to back up his words, then he becomes very interesting."

In a sense, both Claure and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son together can push Sprint forward as much as Legere has done for T-Mobile. "Both Son and Claure are upstarts and self-made billionaires, so they are kindred spirits, which helps Sprint," Entner said.

It also helps that both Son and Claure are familiar with networks that share similar technology traits. "When Son took over Vodafone, he was in the same position that Sprint is now," Entner said.

Maybe instead of a solo John Legere pitching T-Mobile, analysts suggested that Son and Claure can become Sprint's new tag team.

Why things should work out for Sprint

While Sprint's second quarter subscriber loss looks bad next to T-Mobile's gains, all three analysts are optimistic about Sprint's potential, though they agree that much of its future will depend on Claure, for sure.

"Where Sprint is now and where it needs to be are in Claure's hands," Menezes said. "Sprint already has a deep-pockets partner in SoftBank. Sprint also has a significantly updated network and a huge holding of spectrum that's conducive to broadband, mobile and fixed data. So why is Sprint running off the road into a ditch? Conceptually, it's fairly easy to fix."

The very first thing Claure needs to do is to draw attention to Sprint to dim the spotlight on T-Mobile, Menezes said.

"T-Mobile doesn't have more than Sprint -- the reach of T-Mobile's network isn't any greater. Sprint hasn't done its best with its quick update to LTE, while T-Mobile has gotten the attention and has had key marketing arguments with Legere to earn the trust of the customer."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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