Comcast Rebrand: to Xfinity and Beyond

Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator with 23.6 million customers, is launching a massive rebranding campaign Feb. 12 to reflect the changing technological and consumer landscape, attaching the Xfinity name to its entire product line and its platforms.

Starting this Friday, the Philadelphia-based MSO will begin rolling out the new Xfinity brand — Xfinity TV, Xfinity Internet and Xfinity Voice — to customers in 11 markets: Boston; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Portland Ore.; Seattle; Hartford, Conn.; Augusta, Ga.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. The campaign is being led by New York ad agency Siegel & Gale (which developed the Tru2way campaign) and San Francisco-based ad giant Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (which developed Comcast's “Comcastic” ad campaign).

The change is reminiscent of a similar move that Cablevision Systems made several years ago, renaming all of its services under the Optimum brand, which proved highly successful.

And it appears to be a growing trend in the industry — Time Warner Cable, which split off from parent Time Warner Inc. in March, is also said to be investigating a name change.

Comcast has said the reasoning behind the brand shift is primarily evolution: As products have evolved from plain television service to telephony, high-speed Internet access, wireless and beyond, so too should the brands attached to them.

“We reached the point where the pace of innovation had accelerated so much that every single one of our core areas was being impacted by substantial upgrades,” said Comcast executive vice president of operations Dave Watson. “We felt this was a logical time where the branding should reflect that.”

The name is a variation on Project Infinity, the video-on-demand initiative kicked off by Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts in 2008, Watson added. Since that time, Comcast has rolled out the DOCSIS 3.0 high-speed data spec in more than 75% of its footprint (it will be available in all markets later this year) and is working toward converting its network to all-digital technology.

“The notion is that we are going to keep getting better, we're going to keep improving, and there has been a substantial upgrade moment where we are delivering a next-generation technology and product suite,” Watson said.

Watson did not want to reveal the particulars of the ad campaign. He said the initial push will last between six and eight weeks.

“There'll be ongoing aspects to it [the campaign] as we begin to build on it,” Watson said. “What we want people to know, either six months or a year from now, is that Xfinity means the most choice and control in the marketplace.”

Comcast gave a hint as to what is to come, launching the Web site Feb. 3 with the tagline, “A new era of entertainment is about to begin.”

“I think it's safe to say that Xfinity and the notion of more choice and more control, will be prominent” in the ad campaign, Watson said.

Comcast has already bought TV spots that will air on NBC during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in the launch markets. Cross-channel spots will air on Comcast systems and print and radio ads are also planned.

David Becker, president of San Francisco advertising and branding agency Philippe Becker, said Comcast's rebranding efforts make sense as technology has changed.

“When it comes to new media, particularly around launching new products, do you really want that association of what is essentially in most people's mind an old cable company?” Becker asked. “Do you really want that association with stuff that is streaming on your iPod?

“To me it makes sense to explore a new brand, because it's a new offering,” Becker added. “It's probably easier to start from scratch given that they don't have a lot of loyalty and emotional equity in their old brand that needs to be preserved.”

The brand change would be extended to most of Comcast's major markets by the end of the year, Roberts said on a conference call. The company will retain the Comcast corporate name and it will still be featured, along with the Xfinity brand, on its service trucks and in other areas.

“The important message to our customers is that Comcast is innovating in all our products across many platforms, giving these customers even more choice and control over the entertainment, communications and information they want,” Roberts said on the conference call.