NAME: Colleen Langner
TITLE: Senior Vice President, Marketing Operations
COMPANY: Cox Communications
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Helped launch cable’s first triple-play bundle while a Cox marketer in Orange County, Calif. Launched first Cox Solutions Stores (there are now more than 100). Steadily adding responsibilities, she now leads all marketing operations, including customer acquisition and retention teams, and media planning and buying, reporting to EVP Mark Greatrex.
QUOTABLE: “I always want to be in a role where I’m closest to the consumer. The consumer will tell you their wants and desires.”
Colleen Langner got “the cable bug” with her first job out of college (Marquette University), working with the cable marketing council in her hometown of Chicago. The road to her current role as senior vice president of marketing operations for Cox Communications included milestones like helping the MSO launch broadband Internet service, digital telephone and digital cable in a groundbreaking three-service bundled offering in Orange County, Calif.
Her husband Dan’s job took them west, in 1990; her career rise at Cox brought them to Atlanta about four years ago. Along the way, they have raised three teenage sons who have grown up with the business.
“I had my oldest when digital cable launched, and I had my second when high-speed Internet came around and then, when I had my third, it was phone,” she said recently, referring to 19-year-old Jack, 16-year-old Corey and 14-year-old Ryan. “My husband said to me, ‘There’s no more products.’ So thank God we didn’t launch home security until recently.”
‘COOL AS A CUCUMBER’
That sense of humor is part of what makes Langner, in Cox chief operating officer Jill Campbell’s words, “an extremely positive, optimistic leader.”
Campbell gave an example. During a period last year when Cox was trying to increase its average revenue per customer and people were bombarding Langner with ideas, Langner remained “cool as a cucumber,” thanking everyone and praising their suggestions.
“She never, never says negative things,” Campbell said. “People really want to follow her and they will take the hill because of how she presents things.”
Mark Greatrex, Cox’s chief marketing and sales officer, credits her help as a key lieutenant in leading two big transformations of the marketing team, moving from state-by-state approaches to a centralized one with nationwide portfolios in categories such as customer acquisition and retention and digital outreach.
Among other attributes, she’s agile at tweaking campaigns on the fly and moving marketing resources around quickly as needed, Greatrex said. “In a very high change environment, that’s tremendously important.”
Change was certainly in the air in mid 1990s Orange County, when Cox began offering an alternative to the then-Pacific Bell phone monopoly and introduced high-speed Internet to consumers weary of dial-up modems. “We used to say with high-speed Internet, we all lived in Missouri, the show-me state. People had to see it to believe it, to see how fast it was.”
Digital cable, which upped the channel ante from 30 to hundreds and added an on-screen guide to sort through them, was another revelation marketers wanted consumers to experience first hand.
Kip Simonson, who was Langner’s boss at the Cox system back then (and now works at Mediacom Communications), said Langner was adept at helping branch out into this new realm of retail marketing. One weekend, Simonson said, Cox set up a 10,000-square-foot tent in the parking lot of a CompUSA store and, he recalled, more than 5,000 people showed up to try out the new products.
“She was a huge help in setting up big events,” he said.
The Mediacom marketer saw Langner at the recent CES in Las Vegas. In an interview shortly after the gadget-fest ended, Langner said highlights for her were “around smart home: home security, home innovation and how our products are now working together.”
Keeping up (or even staying ahead) of what consumers want nowadays leads Langner into marketing those home-monitoring and automation services in Cox Homelife, and clueing Cox consumers into the benefits of the new Contour video platform, with voice remote and enhanced search, and Gigabit Internet.
When Cox reintroduced Contour — now incorporating X1 technology developed by Comcast — she led an employee campaign within Cox to make everyone a knowledgeable ambassador for New Contour. “She has got tremendous collaboration and influencing skills,” Greatrex noted, both for communicating with her team of more than 100 employees and for dealing with her senior-management peers.
ALL ABOUT TEAM BUILDING
Langner said she gets a lot of satisfaction from watching the personal growth by members of her team as they learn new capabilities made possible by data and technology to get to new levels of marketing — “seeing how they’ve flourished and the accomplishments they’ve made not only at Cox but within the industry.”
“For me, it’s really around building teams that I can trust and know that people have your back,” she said. “That’s what I instill with my team members. And make sure they also stay close to the consumer. … I think that can lift and move the whole business forward.”
The youngest of six children, Langner’s dad (her pre-married surname was McKay) was a Chicago city policeman and her mom was a bank vice president.
In addition to Campbell and Greatrex and former Cox marketing chief Joe Rooney, Langner counts her mom, Pat, who is now 85, as a mentor “and a role model. Gosh, if she can do it with six kids. I only have three.”
Keeping up with her sons’ activities, including football and wrestling, keeps her busy outside of work. Since moving east from Southern California, the family maintains a love of the beach by visiting ones on the Gulf Coast, including Destin, Fla., and gets back to the Golden State at least a couple of times a year.
“I like to say there’s nothing that a good book and a walk on the beach can’t help.”