A Campaign Draped In Red, White and Blue

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Wrapping its brand and marketing campaigns with the American flag has helped drive subscriber growth for at least one cable operator.

Cable veteran Steve Simmons, who acquired RCN Corp.’s Princeton, N.J., systems in 2003, said patriotism drove the idea for the brand of his company — Patriot Media & Communications — a moniker first coined by one of his high-school age children.

“I sat around the table with my five kids, and we thought about what would be a good name for the company. It was not too long after 9/11, and one of the kids suggested Patriot Media,” chairman and CEO Simmons recalled last week.

Patriot Media, which counts about 80,000 video subscribers and 30,000 high-speed data subscribers, made the American flag a centerpiece of a marketing push that it ran this summer. The campaign’s theme: “I love America.”

The operator sent gift boxes to 100,000 households in its service area in July, including nonsubscriber homes. The boxes contained an American flag decal and copies of the U.S. Constitution, plus a postcard and set of crayons that kids could use to color and send to soldiers stationed in Iraq.

More than 3,000 kids sent in postcards that Patriot delivered to the troops, and the company also invited subscribers into its production studio to sing “America the Beautiful.” Simmons said 53 people responded to the invite, and had their renditions of the song carried on Patriot’s local-origination channel.

Simmons said the campaign, which contained a soft-sell pitch for Patriot’s products, helped draw 1,900 new high-speed data customers, and 300 new digital-cable subscribers.

Tapping loyalty and fervor for the U.S. is a strategy that Simmons plans to expand upon in marketing initiatives.

“We’re looking to do something like that every year; it will be tied around some other theme,” Simmons said.

Patriot also pushes its products with a door-to-door sales force. Customer-service representatives and field technicians are also given sales commissions as an incentive to pitch digital video and high-speed data services to customers, Simmons said. The company also advertises in local newspapers, and on local radio stations and in movie theaters.

Simmons, who sold systems from his 350,000-subscriber cable operation Simmons Communications Corp. to the former Tele-Communications Inc. and other operators in the mid-1990s, closed the deal to buy RCN’s Princeton area systems for about $245 million in February 2003.

After completing an upgrade to 860-MHz plant last year, Patriot Media has added about 1,000 new video customers.

The MSO offers customers 300 video channels, including 21 HDTV networks. Patriot also proffers dual-tuner DVRs from Motorola and has a video-on-demand library spanning more than 1,400 hours of programming.

Patriot also provides plenty of local fare, covering area high-school sports, with games also available on VOD. Simmons said the MSO keeps the games on its VOD platform for at least one month after the contests conclude.

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