On March 15th, T-Mobile announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire MintMobile, the low-cost wireless communications service provider co-owned by Ryan Reynolds. I’ve always been a fan of MintMobile because of its
handsome stakeholder customer-centric philosophy, disruptive nature, and storytelling ability (which I wrote about in a newsletter last year).
Company mergers and acquisitions are always tricky to navigate — both internally and externally — because most people don’t like change. Employees are left questioning the security of their jobs and how their entire organizational structure will be impacted. On the other hand, customers wonder how a merger will affect one of their favorite brands and their own experience, including things like pricing and access to customer service.
The way a company announces a merger or acquisition (or any major change!) to the public can have a huge impact on its reputation. When companies are tactful and transparent in their communication, they can maintain the trust and confidence of their customers, manage their expectations of the changes to come, and minimize negative reactions.
I was impressed with the way T-Mobile and MintMobile announced their transaction last week in a simple, earnest (TBH, hilarious) video. Let’s break down the three biggest tactics that your brand can steal next time you need to deliver important news to your customers.
Put Your Customers First
Too often when large corporations announce their acquisitions, their press releases focus on the success of each company and the financial upside their partnership will bring for shareholders. Organizations will craft data-dense announcements aimed at their investors and rarely take the time to create a separate message to their customer base. Customers don’t care about (or understand!) the economic impact that an acquisition has for a company’s stakeholders. They want to know that their favorite brands are still going to deliver the same customer experience for them no matter what is happening behind the scenes.
The T-Mobile/MintMobile video announcement kicks off with a powerful statement: “Hey everyone, I’m Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile. As the un-carrier, we put customers first in everything we do.” Right off the bat, they acknowledge that their customers come first. When he states that the company plans to acquire MintMobile, he describes the organization as “a wireless brand that shares our customer-first commitment.” Instead of leading with Mint’s price, quality, or network, he wants his customers to understand that they are aligned on their value of customer centricity. This approach immediately puts the audience at ease as they continue to learn about the changes that are coming.
The video is less than two minutes long and succinctly communicates the announcement in terms that the audience can understand. In the accompanying press release, T-Mobile still mentions its customers, “We think customers are really going to win with a more competitive and expansive Mint and Ultra.”
In comparison, when Viacom and CBS announced its long-awaited merger in 2019, their press release began with several bullet points about how the two companies are the biggest content spenders in the industry and the financial benefits their partnership would present, like the estimated run-rate annual synergies of $500 million (whatever that means?).
Make sure that you’re tailoring your message to your customers when communicating major changes so that they feel included in your journey and, more importantly, understand what’s going on.
Stay True to Your Story
Your superfans exist because of that overlap between your story and their story. It’s crucial to reaffirm that uniqueness in your announcement to maintain your customers’ trust and emotional attachment to your brand.
MintMobile is known for its humorous, no-nonsense personality, which shines through Ryan Reynolds’s message in the video. Ryan jokes that Mint’s “incredibly improvised and borderline reckless messaging strategy” was written into the contract in crayon, and that this new partnership will fill a void he has in his soul that prompts him to “emphasize external success over quieting an inner child.” 😂 The script of the video brilliantly reminds Mint users of what the company is all about, while providing T-Mobile customers a perfect introduction to the new brand in the portfolio.
On its website, Mint boasts that its care team is made of actual humans, available seven days per week. With such a personable and humorous video message, the nontraditional wireless provider stays true to its roots. By infusing its Story in the announcement, MintMobile customers can feel relieved that the brand they fell in love with is not going to change under new ownership. Read: a Frontier Airlines play of “Let’s just eliminate customer service phone numbers all together!” ain’t happening at T-Mobile/Mint.
Set The Expectations
When a change occurs in your business, you need to reset the expectations with your customers so they know what to expect and don’t make assumptions on their own. Acquisitions are confusing, and each deal is completely nuanced. As a Mint consumer, if you just heard that MintMobile was acquired by T-Mobile, you might be concerned that your cell phone plan would increase in price to match the T-Mobile rate. You may believe that MintMobile “sold out” to a big corporation and is no longer going to exist. Such confusion and misperception are exactly what you want to avoid when announcing big changes to your audience.
T-Mobile and MintMobile intentionally set the expectations in their announcement. First, Ryan explains that Mint has been so powerful because it has been running on T-Mobile’s 5G network all along. Right away, customers understand that the quality of their service is remaining the same, and that these brands are already pretty familiar with each other. Phew! Next, Mike states that they will uphold Mint’s famous $15/month pricing, so users can be assured that their no-gimmick, contractless deal isn’t going anywhere.
While more information will come out in the coming weeks about the partnership, T-Mobile and MintMobile likely minimized misinformation and negative reactions to their acquisition by managing expectations right away.
Next time your brand needs to announce a major change, make sure that you’re communicating to your customers directly, remaining true to your story, and setting the expectations for your current and future customers.