Five months after closing its deal with Tele-Communications
Inc., AT&T Broadband & Internet Services will begin its consumer rebranding effort
on Tuesday (Aug. 3).
In what president Leo J. Hindery Jr. called the largest
brand transition in the history of cable, former TCI systems will be renamed AT&T
Cable Services, and its consumer products will be rebranded AT&T Cable, AT&T
Digital Cable and AT&T@Home.
The company has earmarked $30 million for operational
expenses related to the rebranding, such as repainting its 15,500 trucks, replacing
signage and ordering new uniforms. That's not counting the $150 million AT&T BIS
devoted to marketing this year.
For the MSO that serves 10 million subscribers in 600 cable
systems, the transition won't happen overnight. It will take another two weeks for
AT&T BIS to share its logo-usage standards with its systems.
The first indication of the brand switch this week occurs
tomorrow, when employees start answering their phones, "AT&T Cable Services,
formerly TCI." While the TCI brand won't be phased out completely for six to
eight months, analysts believe AT&T cannot replace the brand soon enough.
"Getting rid of the TCI brand is not something that
will be missed by consumers at all," said Bob Davis, managing director at Dove
Consumer focus groups held by AT&T BIS prior to the
transition support those sentiments through comments such as, "How soon can you do
it?" AT&T BIS senior vice president of marketing Doug Seserman said. "TCI
was a great company, but not a great brand. It's important for us to transition to
the AT&T brand as quickly as possible."
The name change is "job two," Seserman stressed.
"Job one will be to run the business."
"It took United Airlines two to three years to paint
all their planes because you can't paint the planes while they're flying in the
air," Seserman said by way of comparison.
The MSO appointed brand-transition coordinators at each
system to ensure no aspect of the name swap is overlooked. Seserman's Denver-based
marketing staff has also worked closely with AT&T corporate branding strategists.
"We're trying to be very respectful of the
AT&T brand," Seserman said.
Hindery said he believes the MSO has earned its access to
the AT&T brand through compliance with quality standards outlined by the National
Cable Television Association.
Employees at the field level are excited about the
transition, said Jim George, director of marketing at the Great Lakes division of AT&T
BIS. "It's a big milestone in people's careers to switch to one of the most
respected names in the business."
According to Kathy Luckey, marketing manager at AT&T
BIS Great Lakes, some Chicago-area systems will be honoring the makeover on Tuesday with
pizza parties; others began a celebratory countdown last week.
While the division has not yet repainted its trucks or
issued new uniforms, its service technicians will start wearing hats with the AT&T
logo this week.
Because of the two-month lead times typical in advertising,
the first AT&T Cable Services branded campaigns are not expected to hit the streets
until the fall, apart from on-air image ads which are currently running.
New AT&T-branded cable bills are expected to reach
subscriber mailboxes in October. Ultimately, the parent company hopes to sell a bundle of
cable and telephone services under a single bill, but not for another year.
Until then, AT&T BIS and its corporate counterparts
hope to share database information for cross-marketing efforts.
Many believe the clout of the AT&T brand will help
drive market share for the MSO. Hindery predicted it could pick up as many as five
penetration points in video following the brand transition.
Although the TCI brand is poised to fade away early next
year, it may take a while before it dies completely -- at least in the minds of longtime
Bruce Leichtman, analyst at The Yankee Group, said a brand
transition of this magnitude takes time. "It took years for people to adjust from
Bell Indiana to Ameritech," he said.