5G marketing during COVID-19
Some brands touted 5G amid the pandemic, but overall 5G-related awareness marketing slowed during the COVID-19 crisis.
5G plans continue, while marketing slows
Carriers continued to forge ahead on their 5G network development, despite some COVID-19-related delays. However, most carriers pulled 5G awareness efforts during the pandemic. In fact, the most common 5G-related marketing observed during the pandemic were the ongoing promotions for the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G phone.
At the merger close, T-Mobile hyped 5G
T-Mobile was one of the exceptions to the rule, continuing to invest in 5G network awareness during COVID-19. By no means was T-Mobile’s marketing completely focused on 5G during the lockdown, but the network was a sustained piece of the mix. After T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint closed on April 1, it lauded the benefits of the transaction, including “building a world-leading 5G network.” T-Mobile prioritized its 5G network message throughout its merger-related marketing, from emails to customers, to national TV spots.
T-Mobile digital ads during this time period were primarily targeted at businesses, rather than consumers. This comes as no surprise, since T-Mobile has outlined the opportunity it sees in the enterprise business sector, and has focused on unifying its post-merger business strategy.
Spectrum Mobile was the other notable provider continuing to market 5G during the pandemic. Charter, having just announced 5G availability for its Spectrum Mobile customers in February, featured 5G primarily in acquisition efforts, observed across email, direct mail, and Facebook. Beginning in March, wherever Spectrum Mobile was promoted, a 5G message accompanied.
What we think
5G won’t motivate switching, for now.
5G may be here (or at least, in many places), but that doesn’t mean much for consumers without a 5G-capable phone. With COVID-19 driving an economic downturn, many consumers will not be in a financial position to spend $1k+ on a new 5G-capable smartphone this year, even if popular manufacturer Apple is able to launch a 5G iPhone in time for the holidays.
As we’ve seen in the marketing so far, brands have encouraged consumers to purchase the pricey Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. While the Galaxy device gets the 5G conversation started, iPhones are the most popular smartphones in the U.S. (and these users are the most brand loyal, according to Mintel research on mobile phones), so widespread consumer adoption of 5G in the US will likely depend on when a 5G iPhone becomes available and consumers can afford it. Apple has said it is only about a month behind its planned fall iPhone launch. But, in the end, even if it manages to launch a 5G-capable iPhone in time for the holidays, will consumers have $1k+ to throw at a new phone?