Sprint CEO On Failed “Framily” Plans: It’s Hard To Sell A Talking Hamster

sprint-framily-hamsterIf you’ve watched TV in the last year, you’ve likely caught one of the many, overly quirky ads for Sprint’s former “Framily” plans. Between the francophile daughter, random goth hanger-on Gord-on, and a hamster patriarch voiced by Andrew Dice Clay, the company’s new CEO admits that it was all just a bit too much for what was otherwise a cruddy group data plan on a really slow network.

“Dealers said it was hard to sell,” explains Marcelo Claure, who recently took over the reins of the beleaguered wireless company. “We are marketing a hamster talking to people… That’s very hard to sell.”

Claure, the billionaire founder of Miami-based Brightstar Corp. (which was recently acquired by Sprint’s majority investor, Japanese telecom biggie Softbank), says he was initially advised that he should not shake things up at Sprint until after his first 100 days on the job. But the Framily nonsense was such an obvious target that he apparently felt compelled to shelve it.

“I couldn’t help myself,” Claure told investors, according to FierceWireless. “There wasn’t a compelling value proposition here. We were more expensive and coming out of a traumatic network experience.”

He says the focus now is on trying making customers see the value in choosing Sprint. Claure replaced the Framily plans in late August with the Sprint Family Share Pack that offers significantly more data for your dollar than you might get from other carriers.

Claure followed that up almost right away with a $60 unlimited data plan, and then announced this week that it would be offering a special $50/month unlimited plan only for iPhone customers.

And while all of Sprint’s new plans give you a ton of data for a decent amount of money, the company faces some major hurdles in convincing customers to switch.

First, recent tests have shown that Sprint’s data network is much slower than the LTE networks for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. There is little point to having an unlimited data plan if you’re unable to do enjoy data-heavy services (like streaming video) that require decent network speeds.

Additionally, while Sprint has effectively slashed the price on data by increasing the amount customers have access to each month without increasing rates, most smartphone users in the U.S. don’t use more than 2GB of data per month on their wireless accounts. It’s like a restaurant that serves very filling food, meaning most diners won’t finish what’s on their plates. There is no real additional value if the restaurant says you can get a free second helping.

Claure says Sprint is actively working to improve its LTE network, and we hope the company is indeed committed to catching up to the data speeds and coverage offered by its competition. An industry with so few players desperately needs companies willing to shake things up to challenge the market leaders.

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