Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Megabranding - when an iconic name shouldn't change

Ad age covered the Time Warner Cable rebrand in a recent article. The gist of the article was, "if it's not broke, don't change it."

NEW YORK ( -- When Time Warner Cable spun off from corporate parent Time Warner in March 2009, one obvious question hung over the No. 2 cable company's head: Why keep the name "Time Warner Cable" when it was no longer a Time Warner company?

So last January, Time Warner Cable's chief marketing officer, Sam Howe, and his agency partners at WPP's Ogilvy embarked on a name search, internally dubbed Project Mercury, to see what names, if any, could better define the newly independent company. The search was voluntary (the company had no contractual obligation to find a new name), exhaustive (dozens of names were explored, two were seriously considered) and ultimately, after 18 months as a standalone company, Time Warner Cable's new name is ... Time Warner Cable.

"When we first looked at the direction we wanted to take as our own company two years ago, we asked ourselves, 'What are we to people?' We didn't want to just be a cable company," Mr. Howe said, noting that the company considered removing the "Cable" from its name as well. "But we think we'll create distance from the parent in time. Those words together still carry a lot of equity."

Instead, Time Warner Cable will debut a revamped logo, design and branding campaign in an effort to establish a unique identity both as a brand and as a cable company. That includes ditching the RoadRunner logo it famously licensed from former corporate sibling Warner Bros. to advertise its internet service (although it will keep the brand name) as well as the capitalized, Time magazine-inspired font in its corporate logo. Time Warner Cable will now use a proprietary font, TWC Round, that draws less attention to the "Cable" part of its name so that its other products -- phone, internet, on-demand -- can get equal play. The company's logo, an eye/ear hybrid inspired by the work of Swiss artist Steff Geissbuhler, will also be featured more prominently.

A series of TV spots debuting this week, created with Ogilvy Group Creative Director Tommy Henvey, should also look a little different. Gone are the competitive ads featuring actor Mike O'Malley calling out Verizon Fios for its deceptive billing practices. In their place are ads featuring families with active lifestyles made easier by Time Warner products: a father pitching baseballs to his son while programming a game from his Remote DVR Manager; a couple who can watch an on-demand movie at the same time on any TV in their house; a married couple who can listen to voicemails from their son via e-mail.

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