Not Your Grandmother’s Phone Company So, here’s a challenge: How do you market a "new" product that has been around for more than a hundred years and that almost every household in the U.S. already has? It’s just as difficult as creating the next must-see TV program or the next big website. The question we had to answer was: how do we communicate to customers that we offer a better choice for their residential telephone service? When we first started out, the skeptics thought the incumbent telephone companies had an entrenched position and that it would be difficult to convince customers to change. Fast forward just a couple of years later, and we’re clearly winning. Comcast is now the largest competitive residential phone service provider in the U.S. "First Cable, Then the Internet, Now This!" The first thing we did to market the Digital Voice was create awareness that Comcast was even offering it. In creating awareness, we purposefully set out to position ourselves as a high-value, lower cost alternative that was "not your grandmother’s telephone company." We did this because we wanted to reinforce the value of Digital Voice as well as demonstrate that we were bringing 21st Century technology to a 19th Century product. In creating awareness, we chose to use humor in our ad campaigns. We worked with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, an agency famous for the "Got milk?" campaign, because they struck the right tone in using humor to convey our brand personality and reinforce our key selling points. Their ads have helped us capture customer interest and create buzz about the product. It’s A Better Value Like other MSOs who are marketing a voice product, we learned in focus groups and marketing research that price and bundling were key drivers for spurring customers to make the switch. Combining the cost savings and convenience of one installation and one bill made it even more attractive. So, once the initial awareness-building phase was complete, we began running a series of ads focused on savings with the basic message, "your calls won’t change, they’ll just cost less." These ads are working, and our numbers are skyrocketing. A Reliable, High-Quality Alternative The next phase for us will be to introduce new features, and to reinforce the quality and reliability of the service. Beyond price-value, we need to continue to differentiate our products by communicating key features like our SmartZone communications center—an Internet-based application that allows customers to check email and listen to voicemail online from one central hub. We’re also going to be offering caller ID on both the PC and TV, and we’ll be launching our first enhanced cordless phone product that can be used to access the Internet, and do things like check email and send Instant Messages. Regardless of what we do, the marketing challenge will be to find ways to make Comcast Digital Voice new again for a whole generation of customers who don’t need to settle for their grandmother’s telephone company. (Cathy Avgiris is senior vp and general manager, voice services at Comcast Cable)

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