The lead in our San Antonio Business Journal a week ago was the Starbucks and AT&T Wi-Fi story. Finally! I thought, Starbucks realizes they need to have FREE wi-fi, and AT&T realizes the value of the partnership in increased exposure and association between strong brands. They've dropped the silly T-Mobile deal that tried to strong-arm customers into paying or subscribing to T-Mobile.
But no. It's another paid deal (sigh), though the pill has a sugar coating. Yahoo's tech blog gives more detail. Starbucks is joining the strong-arming by giving a bit of connectivity with the purchase of a reloadable Starbucks card, and AT&T gives the nod to its existing customers.
As an AT&T customer, I'll be able to get free wi-fi at Starbucks without getting out my little AT&T broadband-anywhere gadget. But in the past three years, I've stopped going to Starbucks, along with most of the connected, mobile folks in my world. Other coworking venues have sprung up, the movement is going on without these two giants yet understanding the benefits of open source community.
Why should AT&T and Starbucks have kept the wi-fi free for everyone? The brands of the two giants on the "connect through" screens would then be associated with that warm, fuzzy feeling of getting work done and being cared for in the minds of every wi-fi using customer. They could have offered folks free connectivity in return for a bit of opt-in marketing. It could have been win-win.
Instead, the two brands will be associated with greed, nickel-and-diming, jumping through hoops, and the associated user experience difficulties of digging out codes, typing them into cryptic screens, and expiring windows of connectivity. Don't associate your brand with coercive tactics, especially with the connected crowd. Bad move!
Anyone know someone I can talk to at AT&T for a user-centered marketing strategy consult?