Cox Crafts B-to-B Marketing Effort

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Cox Communications Inc.'s Cox Business Services unit has announced its first full-scale, multimedia marketing campaign targeted toward small and midsized commercial businesses.

The division hired California-based agency neoBrands to help develop a business-to-business campaign with the theme, "Plug in. Do business."

Last year, focus groups confirmed that Cox had a low profile in the commercial market, according to Cox Business Services manager for commercial-marketing communications Terrell McCollum.

"Our primary objective is to establish Cox as a player in the commercial market, because that's not the way people think of us today," he added.

Cox started an image and awareness campaign in late February, followed by an acquisition phase early this month in Phoenix and Orange County, Calif.

Promotions, which vary by market, feature discounts on bundled services, including Internet access, telephony and TV.

Larger companies have little demand for cable television, McCollum admitted, but the service does appeal to bars, bowling alleys, barber shops and businesses with waiting rooms. Some companies also like to offer stock reports, he added.

Cox is not above using humor to try to capture the attention of its target customer-businesses with 100 or fewer employees. Television spots present an unnamed "Cox guy" as a problem solver for businesses, McCollum said, whether it's talking a client down off a ledge or selling discounted phone services.

The separate business-to-business effort was meant to stand apart from the MSO's consumer campaign, tagged, "Now You're Living."

"The good news is that we have what is generally a highly regarded brand in our markets," McCollum said. "Cox has an exceptional reputation for customer service, which translates from the consumer side to the business side. We're starting from a good place."

But most people within Cox markets probably think of the MSO as a cable provider first. While smaller companies might not have too much resistance in going to Cox for a telephone service, larger firms need to take a closer look before deciding the MSO can really deliver telecommunications tailored to business applications.

"That's what this campaign is all about," McCollum said.

Cox faces competition on the consumer-television side from direct-broadcast satellite and telephone companies looking to break into the business. But the number of competitors on the commercial side is larger.

Prime competitors are regional Bell operating companies, for telephone and digital-subscriber-line services, but there are also many competitive local-exchange carriers. Cox thinks its facilities-based services present an advantage over most CLECs, spokesman Bobby Amirshahi said.

Media for the campaign includes cross-channel, broadcast television, radio, newspaper, business journals and outdoor, including airport signs.

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