Word-of-mouth has long been considered the secret weapon
for cable operators marketing high-speed Internet access. And in its latest marketing
campaign, MediaOne Express has brought testimonials front and center.
The new campaign features dozens of consumers offering
their reactions -- positive, of course -- to MediaOne's cable modems in a series of TV,
radio and print ads that will run in the six markets (Jacksonville, Fla.; Detroit; Los
Angeles; Chicago; Boston; and Atlanta) where the MSO offers the service.
"There are very few products that marketers can sell
that sell themselves like this one," said Kelly Ruebel, director of marketing for
Media One Internet Services. "We definitely wanted to take advantage of it."
MediaOne brought 60 people to a Los Angeles television
studio and recorded their reaction to the high-speed Internet-access service, Ruebel said.
The testimonials that were chosen for the campaign centered on issues like education and
productivity, instead of on the cable modem's blazing-fast speed.
MediaOne wants to position the Internet service not merely
as a fast connection to the World Wide Web, Ruebel said, but as a useful appliance in the
"We want to convey that it is useful for the business
of living," she said, "and not just for fast computing."
Agreed one marketing manager, "It makes sense if you
want to start making this a mass-market product."
MediaOne Express' emphasis on functionality is the latest
in a series of marketing decisions by cable operators to de-emphasize speed as cable
modems move beyond the early adopter market.
Last month, Road Runner, Time Warner Cable's
Internet-access service, launched a campaign called "Beyond Speed," which
emphasized local programming, constant connectivity and time and cost savings.
And Comcast Corp.'s @Home Network service, Comcast@Home,
has also been stressing the practical benefits of cable modems, while stepping up its
efforts to demonstrate the product to potential customers, especially in retail stores.
Ironically, MediaOne Express' testimonial campaign may be
the last under that brand name: The company is about to complete its merger with Road
Runner, although no specifics have been announced. What's more, Microsoft Corp. is
reportedly negotiating to buy approximately 25 percent of Road Runner.
In the meantime, MediaOne Express said, it is conducting
business as usual. In addition to the testimonial campaign, the company has undertaken a
direct-mail-marketing customer-acquisition program. And senior executives have said that
MediaOne Express is exploring "usage-sensitive" pricing, as opposed to the
current flat-rate price structure of approximately $40 per month.