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It’s Full Throttle for Cable Marketing

7/11/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

Recognizing that cable is advancing toward a new era in television and entertainment, the time has come for marketing to make the most of cable’s unique advantages and redefine cable’s place in the consumer mind. Here, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit co-chairs — Kathleen A. Dore, president of Rainbow Entertainment Services, and Pamela Euler Halling, senior vice president of marketing and programming at Insight Communications Co. — take a breather to provide their insights on the state of the industry as the Boston gathering approaches.

Q: What are the major marketing issues the cable industry — cable companies and programmers — face in the future?

Kathleen Dore: Along with creating powerful and unique programming, many cable networks have been focusing on advancing the success of digital cable and On Demand, believing this to be the best way to serve our operating partners and customers. From a marketing standpoint, it is our challenge to find effective strategies that maximize the promotion of emerging technologies and the content we create.

Whether it be through partnerships, creative advertising or other plans, all these new viewing formats and niche content ideas need to be fully supported.

In many ways, our own success is shifting the paradigm of the industry.

When critics see advances, they have often predicted doom — television was said to be the death of film, and the VCR was supposedly going to end ad-supported TV. However, because of our industry’s focus on innovation, we have prospered throughout. Cable companies and programmers are the great innovators of this era, and together we need to maximize the potential we have for the future.

Pamela Euler Halling: I think creating value — for all parties and especially for our customers — is a challenge for the industry in the future. As new content for video and broadband applications is developed, we need to work together to appropriately monetize and package content and take these great, new products to market. For instance, there are several models being deployed for On Demand content. Market trials and standardized usage data will enable us to measure the success of a particular strategy and fine tune our efforts.

Q: These are challenging times for our industry. What can cable marketers learn from other industries in terms of competition, sales channels, new product launches, protection of the core business, targeting and other areas?

Dore: We are in a very important new era for marketing, and certainly, we have all seen some interesting ways new products have been launched.

The iPod, Mini Cooper and Chrysler 300 are just some examples of marketers who took either basic or complex products and turned them into huge opportunities. Each of these marketers uses the power of entertainment to introduce new concepts, making the customer’s experience of paramount importance.

Halling: Two key learnings from outside the industry that cable marketers should examine are how to effectively execute on a strategy and how to provide excellent customer service. We have evolved from a one-product video business for more than 30 years to a full-fledged video, broadband and telephone business in just the last five years. Each of these products continues to be enhanced with new technology, content and ways of adding value for our customers.

Changes of this magnitude require a change in the way we conduct our business, if we want to compete effectively, grow market share, launch new products and create positive customer experiences. Other industries have gone through growing pains in one form or another with multiple products in a more highly-competitive environment. Cable marketers can learn from the most successful companies with superior customer satisfaction ratings, customer-obsessed leadership and flawless strategic execution.

Q: As Summit co-chairs, you’ve targeted providing a significant learning experience to middle managers. Why?

Dore: This industry is moving rapidly. Our content, networks and technologies are growing in many directions. Our middle managers are called upon to make independent decisions on a daily basis that greatly influence our overall success.

Often, managers have fewer opportunities to network with other companies than their senior management colleagues. CTAM is the perfect opportunity for middle managers to expand the practical information and resources they can use on the job.

One or two new ideas applied to the marketing issues these managers face every day have the potential to significantly improve their effectiveness and contribute to overall business success.

Halling: Middle managers are key to successful execution of marketing strategies. They need to know what the best options are for implementation and maximizing results. Often, they are not as involved in developing the marketing strategy, but are asked to implement a plan that incorporates new products, marketing messages and sales channels. And, perhaps these managers are presented with sales goals that are significantly higher than what has been achieved in the past. Middle managers need the tools that will make them successful, and they can be obtained by attending Summit.

Q: If you could wave your magic wand, how would you achieve a significant improvement in cable marketing?

Dore: Cable marketers have always responded to new challenges in the marketplace. Continued improvement demands that our businesses successfully integrate and foster creativity while focusing on the bottom line. It’s especially important that we encourage our middle managers to think outside the box, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to continue to learn from best practices inside and outside the industry.

Halling: We will see a continual improvement in cable marketing as competition gets tougher. One way of strengthening the efforts of individual companies is to create partnerships for building awareness of products and embracing the power of promotion to deliver our marketing messages.

There are many opportunities for cable companies, programmers, retailers and CE manufacturers to work together and develop new sales channels for all products, creating a competitive advantage for video, broadband and phone. The CTAM Summit promises to address the opportunities that will help reshape the business and meet our unique challenges.

The CTAM Summit, titled “Full Throttle,” is scheduled for July 18 to 21 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

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