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March 8, 2006

Product Naming: The Ma Bell Name Just Won't Die

Name"Ma Bell lives". That's what I said in my September 1st blog post of AT&T's decision to call the combined AT&T and SBC merger, AT&T. Of course, I had no idea of AT&T's intention to also acquire BellSouth.

It had been called Ma Bell for decades ever since its 1899 acquisition of the (the REAL Ma Bell), which in turn had been started by Alexander Graham Bell himself, two decades earlier. The smaller companies that accrued from the 1983 anti-trust lawsuit became known as “Baby-Bells”, even though they had nothing to do with either Alexander Graham Bell or the Bell Telephone Company, and we just went right on calling AT&T "Ma Bell", even though it was no longer the mother of all telephone companies and its association with Bell Telephone Company was the stuff of history books.

NameSo, it seems to me that saying you have to pay “Ma Bell’s” bill is a little like saying you want to get something out of the “icebox.” Fact is, calling the phone company Ma Bell just dates you, because the term has been dead for almost 23 years, since before mobile phones, before cordless, before the Internet.

Nonetheless, as AT&T eyes a takeover of BellSouth Corp, the press has been trotting out the Ma Bell moniker. The Chicago Sun-Times says and MSNBC, a company that was not even conceivable when Ma Bell was broken up, tells us .

NameI think if the deal does go down, AT&T should revamp its logo (again) and bring back the Bell that started this all in the first place and bow to history by saying to the world “Ma’s Back”.

Who will AT&T acquire next? Watch out remaining Baby Bells!

For more information on the merger, visit the following blogs:


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Posted by William Lozito at March 8, 2006 10:41 AM
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1 Comment

AT&T should definitely capitalize on the "Ma Bell" moniker, if the media still bandies it about, it has life. More over, the bell logo should come back! That AT&T sphere has never meant anything. Reversing its colors, oh how imaginative. Also, you mention, to look out remaining baby bells at the end. How many are left? The only one to use the Bell name now I believe is Cincinnati Bell, though they were always separate from Ma. Sadly, they have faded out the Bell logo and are going with a logo that looks like it should be for batteries with a + sign next to a - sign. How exciting! Not.

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