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Building a Brand With Optimum Impact

As cable’s marketing community gathers in Boston for the Cable & Telecommunication Association for Marketing Summit from July 17-19, Patricia Gottesman will be front and center in her role as conference co-chair. That’s par for the course for the Cablevision Systems Corp. executive vice president of product management as Gottesman and her staff have developed marketing strategies and messages that have helped draw in the highest percentage of potential customers in its markets who subscribe to its digital-cable, online and voice products. In a recent interview with Multichannel News news editor Mike Reynolds, Gottesman discussed Cablevision’s promotional strategies and focus, the value of the Optimum brand name, and the industry’s position vis a vis satellite and telco competition, among other topics.

MCN: The CTAM Summit’s theme is 'The New World.’ How so?

Patricia Gottesman: It is a new world for cable in every respect. Our networks have changed the telephone business into a new model of efficiency, as well as profitability for the future. We’re positioned to integrate wireless into our business on the programming and the MSO sides, rather than viewing it as competition.

We’ve changed television into digital television and we’re leaps and bounds ahead of satellite with better pictures, better sound quality and more TV choices.

[Cable offers] the flexibility to watch TV on your own time, rather than wrapping your schedule around TV. We’ve transformed the Internet into a new marketplace for information, as well as for commerce. We’ve clearly taken the lead in these developments.

We’ve integrated applications from the PC and the Internet world into the way our customers are watching television, the way they’re searching and the way they’re taking advantage of advertising.

In this process, we’ve also created a whole new economic rationale for the marketing and advertising business. We’re blurring the lines between marketing to the consumer and the business person, making it easier for our customer to understand technology and value.

MCN: Playing a geographic metaphor here: Does that make cable pilgrims of sorts?

PG: [Laughing] Our ability to drive a clear message on value and also on brand equity, which has underneath it a strong reliance on the integrity of our customer relationships and the development of our brands, relates very strongly to the idea of staking out a new world.

MCN: With all things you mentioned and more, cable is a much more complex business than it was 10, seven, five years ago. What kind of challenges does that pose in getting these marketing messages out to consumers and the business realm as well?

PG: More products mean more competition. And we’re clearly surrounded. This makes quality marketing and branding more important than it’s ever been. In this regard, our world has become a lot more like the cable programming world. And there’s a lot we can learn from marketers on both sides of the business. The stakes are very high and it’s also exciting to be in cable marketing right now because we’re winning. It helps to have a success story.

MCN: Are marketers, at Cablevision and the industry in general, getting involved a lot earlier in the process, in terms of finding about new product development and applications from the engineers and then getting those messages out to the market?

PG: The marketing role is virtually completely integrated with network engineering, operations, product development, sales and with finance. There is a single planning and decision-making structure that ultimately translates into execution for the cable industry.

MCN: As a Cablevision subscriber, it seems to me that you’re managing many more promo campaigns now than ever before.

PG: We’ve had to create an integrated approach that has resulted from our need to develop a customer contact strategy that sells many things inside of one message. As a result, like the efficiencies that are created on our network, we have become integrated thinkers and planners. We are able to introduce new products against the backdrop of our other products effectively.

MCN: What kind of brand resonance does Optimum have in the New York metro area? Do people associate or disassociate it with Cablevision?

PG: Some of our customers think about Optimum and Cablevision interchangeably. Others focus on one name or the other. When we do research around the Optimum name we know people associate the name with quality.

MCN: Having the Optimum name across a number of products has to be beneficial?

PG: We’ve chosen to repeat the Optimum brand in voice, in our online products and television, so people will understand there will be high-quality, excellent customer service, excellent support and great value in everything they buy from this consumer brand and also business brand.

MCN: I’m seeing more spots that way. Are you placing more emphasis on your business service capabilities at this juncture?

PG: The customers that love Optimum today at home, will love Optimum at work because it will offer them the same quality and value proposition they have come to rely on.

MCN: So you’re using your consumers’ personal experiences to trade on to or up to the business side?

PG: Absolutely. To make it a clearer relationship, we’re using the same brand name Optimum Online, Optimum Voice, for our products that we sell in the business market. Optimum Lightpath is our enterprise business. Also, we have unified pricing for the small business market with the pricing structure we have for the home. In an increasingly competitive environment against satellite and the telephone companies, our ability to assert that our customers won’t get nickeled and dimed, and won’t need to worry about bait-and-switch pricing is extremely important to the equity of our brand.

MCN: What kind of opportunities does Cablevision see in the business community?

PG: Tremendous. The revenue being driven by the small- to mid-sized business market surpasses in many ways the revenue opportunity available in the consumer market, mainly because there are so many products we can make available that have a direct relationship to what’s in the consumer market. We think we can drive products very efficiently and profitably to businesses.

MCN: Tell me about your rewards program. To a consumer, it’s eye-catching. Free movies, a guy sitting next to former New York Rangers great Mark Messier at Madison Square Garden — also owned by Cablevision. How long has the program been in place?

PG: The rewards program was introduced early in 2005. We’re in the process of expanding it for all Optimum Voice, Optimum Online and iO digital-cable customers so they can enjoy special values and benefits associated with Cablevision’s own businesses, as well as businesses of our partners in whom are customers have expressed some interest.

MCN: How do you view the competition? Verizon is moving into more and more of your markets with its FiOS TV product.

PG: We’ve designed our products to represent the best value in the marketplace, and designed them to be integrated in a way that makes them a better bet for our customers than anything the phone or satellite companies can offer.

MCN: What can you say about Cablevision’s marketing and media outlays during its current fiscal year?

PG: Costs are going down, relative to the growth we’re experiencing. We focus on our business that way out of necessity. We could not afford the kind of growth that we’re achieving if we looked at it any other way. It’s turned out to be a great advantage against the competition. We’ve become more efficient with a great focus on profitability in what we do than you find anywhere else in the market today. That results in a simplicity, a unity and a clarity in our marketing messaging that you’re not going to find from most other competitive companies.

MCN: The telcos and satellite players wield bigger media budgets than cable. Any words of wisdom for fellow operators in their battles with these competitors?

PG: Their having bigger budgets may seem like something we should be concerned about. We have become the most effective marketers of the competitive set. Because we’ve had to do so many things at the same time in order to be effective, and because our networks create the platforms for integration and therefore inspire efficiency, we can move more products in a single marketing touch than satellite, than the telcos and really anyone else.