Cox’s 'One Voice’ Vision

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Cox Business Services was an upstart competitor when it created the “Holding You Back” campaign that has earned it a Top of the Mark honor. The company was trying to reach commercial telecommunications customers, but it lacked the huge marketing budget of the Bell Souths and SBCs of the world. Cox needed an efficient media strategy that would convince businesses large and small that a cable operator could also fill their telephony, Internet and video needs.

Accompanied by an aggressive bundling offer, Cox focused its business efforts on a single theme last year, abandoning its previous strategy of using several different messages incorporating various looks. Cox developed different campaigns aimed at discrete target audiences, but they shared a consistent theme and feel.

“We were trying to build credibility. We felt strongly we needed one voice in the marketplace,” according to Cox Business Services director of marketing communications and branding Dena Malsom. “It was more of a short-term versus long-term view, trying to look at what would build demand over the long-term instead short-term direct-mail response.”

Cox created a series of eye-catching ads designed by Minneapolis-based agency Periscope under the banner, “Your Business Wants to Go, but is Your Communications Provider Holding You Back?”

In one ad, a jockey is trying to win a horse race on a coin-operated hobby horse while in another a cyclist is competing on a tricycle. The copy warns that businesses risk “being left in the dust” or “won’t keep up” unless they switch to Cox.

Tom Alexander, the chairman of the Mark Awards Committee and vice president of trade marketing at the Cartoon Network, says judges were impressed by Cox’s aggressive strategy to go after the entrenched telcos, especially in view of the MSO’s limited marketing budget.

“If you’re doing branding you want a consistent look and feel, you want it to add up to something. None of us have all the money in the world to deliver consistent campaigns,” he says.

Cox’s effort extended to direct-mail, cross-channel spots, five national business magazines, local newspapers and city business journals.

The key, according to Cox executives, was balancing acquisition efforts with branding messages.

“You don’t want to put yourself in a pricing war, so brand building is equally as important as an offer and call to action,” Malsom says, declining to put a value on Cox’s total marketing effort.

Judges demand accountability in choosing a winner, and while Cox could not say how many new customers it lured with the campaign, follow-up research with customers showed the ads resonated with them.

Cox’s total commercial revenues reached $287 million in 2003, a 25% increase from the prior year.

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