Cox's New Image Effort Strikes a Friendly Note

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Cox Communications Inc. will extend the hand of friendship to consumers later this month, when it launches its first new major branding campaign in four years.

New image spots — backed by the tagline, "Your Friend in the Digital Age" — will replace those that bear the MSO's old tag, "Now You're Living."

Cox's Detroit-based ad agency, Doner, helped create the campaign, which was heavily tested by consumer focus groups.

Employees in the field will get a chance to see videotapes of consumers' reactions to the ads, as well as the overall brand positioning.

"This is the most research-based branding campaign I've ever been a part of," said Joe Rooney, Cox's recently promoted senior vice president of marekting.

In early May, system general managers and market vice presidents will hold employee meetings throughout all of Cox's territories to help field-level workers buy into the campaign, Rooney said.

After local systems have introduced the TV spots and print ads in their markets, the MSO will introduce them on its national cross-channel avails, added director of creative services and branding Dena Malsom.

TWO YEAR EFFORT

Malsom expects Cox to use the new campaign for at least two years, with new ads introduced on a regular basis to keep the images fresh. Although the tagline is meant to help reinforce the MSO's expertise in new digital technology, Cox does not plan to specifically promote new services — like digital video recorders, high-definition television or video-on-demand — until they're more widely deployed.

"We don't talk about something until we can answer the first question consumers ask, which is 'When can I get this in my area?' " Rooney said.

Although Cox wants to position itself as a technological innovator, it will also strive to reassure its customer base that they won't be left behind by rapid changes.

"We found it's important to tell consumers what we stand for and why they should develop a long-term relationship with us," Malsom said. "A big thing we bring to the table is our people."

The company also plans to translate the new campaign into Spanish for its growing Hispanic audience, according to Malsom.

"It translates well," Rooney said.

Amid industry consolidation and a tough economic environment, many companies are under pressure to de-emphasize image ads and focus on spots that directly ask for a sale. But Cox — long a proponent of branding — will continue with both types of ads.

"The senior team sees this is something that has long-term benefits, as well as short-term benefits," Rooney said. Strong branding can condition a consumer to keep a certain company at the top of mind when considering a new service, added Rooney, especially once retail ads back up the branding spots.

"Consumers will think, 'I feel good about Cox, and what they stand for — they're going to hold my hand with the new technology,' " Rooney said.

TARGET: CURRENT SUBS

Because each local Cox system sets its own advertising plans, Rooney could not offer a specific figure for the new branding campaign's budget. The corporate marketing team has already devoted well over $1 million to producing the ads, he said.

"Most of the media will be to our own customers, through cross-channel and direct mail," Malsom said. "Our current customers are our most important audience."

Cox is not enlisting top TV or movie personalities to star in its spots.

"The hero is the Cox employee to a certain degree," said Rooney, who added that customer care is one of the MSO's strengths.

A good experience with one Cox employee can help reinforce the company's brand and influence further sales, which plays into the MSO's strategy of selling bundled voice, video and data services.

"The more you buy, the more you have a chance to be wowed by our field people," Rooney said.

Cox launched its first Doner-created ads last summer, Rooney said. Since that point, he said, the MSO has seen dramatic growth in its revenue-generating units.

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