Although AT&T stuffed the announcement of its intention to takeover rival T-Mobile with all of the usual claptrap about improving the service its customers got, it was clear -- like most big ticket financial deals -- that it would most likely only pay rich benefits to the senior execs at both companies and their strategic advisors through layoffs and other "economies of scale."

Now that the deal seems stuck in regulatory purgatory, the only advocates for the deal are the selfsame execs who stand to make out like bandits if it goes through.

Imagine if its customers actually supported the deal? My bet is that the transaction would seem far more certain, and it might even be better destined to actually strengthen the new company. (disclosure: I'm an AT&T customer).

My logic is simple: To gain widespread public support, the proposed deal would have to offer widespread customer benefits, not just enrich a few fat cats. Real improvements in business performance that benefited customers would, by definition, be good business strategy, ergo a stronger company post-merger.

I'm a big fan of alternate histories, so what if the AT&T in my imagined bizzaro world had done the following:

  • Decided to be the best telco in the world. The execs and company board make a commitment that amounts to a declaration, requiring the shredding of those stupid and  selectively parsed vision statements, corporate missions, and brand positionings that have led AT&T down so many blind alleys.
  • Started conversations about it. It starts with its own employees, gathering ideas and encouraging DIY invention wherever it occurs. Then vendors are invited into a conversation, followed by customers. The campaign -- called "A Better Tomorrow" --- starts throwing off actionable concepts almost immediately.
  • Incentivized the communities. AT&T puts its money where its eyes, ears, and mouths are, rewriting its employee compensation and customer usage contracts to recognize and reward participation in the Better Tomorrow program. Its best deals are given to people who best help improve the overall health of its business. No customers or employees anymore, just partners.
  • Asked the communities to support the deal. The company posted its top ten reasons why a merger with T-Mobile would provide demonstrably real benefits to customers of both companies, and then asked its communities to weigh in. A majority of partners agreed and actively supported the deal and wrote to their congress people telling them so. The deal was subsequently approved.

In an alternate alternate world, AT&T just leapfrogged to the last bullet and created the most engaging social media network to build consensus support for its planned corporate moves.

Talk about a great case for social media. It would put to shame a Facebook fan page or silly YouTube video. It would also require real conversation about real issues, which is actually happening within communities that have formed to oppose the merger in the real world.

AT&T isn't trying to sell the world a Better Tomorrow. It's just another corporate shenanigans move from the worst of our past.

(Image credit: merger graphic)

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