How Customers Perceive Charter Spectrum’s Rebranding

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When Charter Communications completed its acquisition of Time Warner Cable in 2016, the plan was to push through a massive rebranding that would quickly replace the much-maligned Time Warner Cable brand with a new, more modern brand: Spectrum. The essence of the Spectrum brand was supposed to be “better service at a better price,” all backed by much-improved customer service.

To make that a reality, Charter Communications focused on several key steps:

(1) Stripping away the Time Warner name from all billings, advertising and mailings

(2) Boosting the Internet speeds of all customers to a base level of at least 60 Mbps

(3) Reducing a confusing mix of incentives, programs, plans and offers into just a few core offerings (Select, Silver, Gold)

(4) Revamping customer service by hiring nearly 20,000 customer service representatives and bringing call centers back to the U.S.

The first leg of the rebranding launched in September 2016, with a rollout to Texas and California markets. That was followed by a rebranding in New York and Florida. Finally, the company rolled out the rebranding to the Midwest, including Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Wisconsin.

If this were a business school case study, it would be a textbook example of how to achieve a rebranding. Any corporate strategist would tell you that you can’t accomplish a massive national rebranding overnight, and that a staged process would make sense. And those same corporate strategist would also probably tell you that any brand needs to be easily defined in terms of a few basic principles. And here the “better service at a better price” brand offer seemed to make sense.

And, just to make sure that the rebranding efforts hit all major demographic groups, Charter Spectrum also rolled out a marketing campaign specifically targeted to Hispanic and Spanish-speaking populations in Texas and California. Again, that’s a perfectly logical step designed to maximize consumer awareness of the new brand.

So, nearly 9 months after the rebranding effort started, how has Charter Spectrum done? It’s too early to see the effect of the rebranding in terms of customer satisfaction surveys (where Time Warner typically scored extremely low), but it is possible to check out some of the chatter on branding blogs and cable TV blogs. And it’s here that it’s possible to really see how customers perceive Charter Spectrum’s rebranding.

Let’s go back to the four major components of the rebranding to see how Charter Spectrum has delivered. To see how well the rebranding has gone, we can compare what the company initially set out to achieve with what the customer response has been thus far.

#1: Stripping away the Time Warner name from all billings, advertising and mailings

From the outset, it could be expected that this move might be confusing for customers. If you’ve been a long-time Time Warner Cable customer for years, what are you going to think when you start to see cable trucks emblazoned with “Spectrum” zipping through your city? In many ways, Time Warner was always a brand that people loved to hate. As much as people complained about Time Warner, it was still a company with a long, distinguished pedigree. And it wasn’t always clear to people why the Time Warner name lived on for some cable TV content assets (like CNN), while Time Warner Cable simply disappeared.

And there was one more problem here, and one that perhaps could have been avoided. When customers had a problem, they were used to calling a certain number to complain. But when the rebranding took effect, it suddenly became difficult to figure out who to call. If you read the customer comments on blogs, one important point that emerged was that some customers were both confused and angry that their old customer service numbers simply disappeared.

But remember – Charter Spectrum was also in the process of closing down overseas call centers and moving them to the U.S. So it perhaps only made sense that the process of transitioning to new customer service call centers was perhaps harder than expected. Plus, as noted above, Charter Spectrum was in the midst of hiring 20,000 new customer service reps and teaching them a new sales script.

#2: Boosting the Internet speeds of all customers to a base level of at least 60 Mbps

This should have been a clear customer win for Charter Spectrum.It meant that some customers automatically saw their Charter Internet speeds increase overnight, all at no additional cost. In terms of customer perceptions, this should have seen an outpouring of support from disgruntled customers. They should have been praising Spectrum, right?

Not so fast. The problem is that Time Warner Cable had been quietly boosting the Internet speeds of some customers to 100 Mbps and even 300 Mbps. There were so many Time Warner cable programs and price tiers, that there were actually more customers than might have been expected who were getting faster speeds than 60 Mbps.

Moreover, they were often getting special promotional pricing for those speeds. Once those promotional periods came to an end, they suddenly found out that there would be an “activation fee” to keep those higher speeds. As some angry customers pointed out on blogs, they felt “exploited” and they were angry about paying activation speeds of up to $200 ($200!) to keep those super-fast 300 Mbps connection speeds.

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#3: Reducing a confusing mix of incentives, programs, plans and offers into just a few core offerings

This, too, should have been a slam dunk win for Charter Spectrum. If you’ve ever seen all the programs, tiers and offers from Time Warner Cable, it would have made your head spin. So Charter Communications did what it thought was best – it “rationalized” all those plans into several core plans – Select, Silver and Gold. Charter thought it was making the lives of its customers easier, not harder. All of a sudden, a very complex choice about which cable TV package to choose became very simple.

But, again, theory and reality did not always go hand in hand. One big problem was that customers actually enjoyed the idea of negotiating with the cable company and feeling like they had won. When they called up and were told that legacy pricing was no longer available, and that they didn’t have as many choices, customers responded by blaming the “monopoly” pricing power of a huge cable giant. And, even worse, customer service reps were given a script to stick to. At times, there were “hidden” options not on that script and customers, indeed, wanted them.

It would be as if you walked into your corner Starbucks and your favorite drink that you’ve been ordering for months was no longer available. Your favorite barista still knew how to make it, but they weren’t allowed to give it to customers. Just imagine how your opinion about Starbucks might change after that.

#4: Revamping customer service

This was perhaps the biggest win for Charter Spectrum. Let’s face it – the customer service at Time Warner was abysmal. And part of the rebranding was meant to gloss over the fact that this was still the same company. But here Charter Spectrum really put its money on the line. Hiring 20,000 customer service reps is a big step. And the company really tried to reinvent itself as a friendly, customer-centric company.

Several branding blogs (including Brand Channel) even pointed out that Charter was redoubling its efforts in the local community. One big winner with Charter had been “Charter Our Community” and so the company intended to bring that same community spirit to regions served by Time Warner Cable. One example was a video posted on YouTube of how a California mom was able to make important home repairs, all thanks to Charter. As Charter establishes itself as a brand in these local communities, the sort of word-of-mouth buzz that’s possible from these efforts should not be underestimated.

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At the end of the day, any rebranding takes time. And keep in mind – Charter is the second-largest cable company these days (trailing only Comcast) with a huge national footprint. It’s not a case of an upstart brand changing its logo and “pivoting” to a new customer segment. In the case of Charter Communications, it meant a re-thinking of every single Time Warner Cable touch point with customers, in very diverse markets. The same branding message that might go over well with customers in Los Angeles or New York might not resonate as well with customers in Ohio and Wisconsin. And any increase in price – even if it meant significantly faster speeds or better service – would be seen by customers as proof that they were being exploited.

After summer 2017, we’ll have a much better view of how the rebranding went. The multi-stage rebranding across all geographic markets will be complete, and the first customer service satisfaction ratings should start to be available. If all goes according to plan, customers will view Spectrum as a progressive, modern brand that offers crystal-clear HD picture, a fully-featured voice service, and the fastest possible Internet — all without a confusing mix of tiers, programs, offers and incentives. That will give Charter Spectrum a solid base to build out its broadband infrastructure and continue to offer its national customers the most innovative product offerings possible.

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Why Viewers Love “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”

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The first queen of late-night TV is the comedian Samantha Bee, who has become one of the most important voices in the pop culture mainstream with her “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” on TBS. The once-a-week late-night show has become must-watch TV for anyone wanting a sharp, satirical point of view on current events, especially in the new era of Trump. Here are just a few of the reasons why viewers love “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”

Reason #1: She’s not afraid to go after President Donald Trump

One of the hallmarks of “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” is her irreverent and scathing criticism of the Trump administration. In 2016, her “Trump Conspiracy Theory” segment was named the #1 video clip of the year in a popular survey of the Top 10 Most Important Late Night Moments of 2016. That just gives you an idea of her willingness to question the policies of the current administration, using comedy as a tool to get people talking.

On April 29, she hosted the “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” which was both a chance to lampoon the Trump administration and to take a few swings at the mainstream media as well. The show, which was counter-programming for both the real White House correspondents’ dinner and the Trump rally taking place in Pennsylvania, include a cold open that featured a satirical press room briefing with the “real fake news.” It also included a piece on “Fox News in memoriam” and a roast of NBC’s Jeff Zucker.

That tells you all you really need to know about Samantha Bee’s ability to take a wide angle view of what’s happening in the media and political space. In the current era, the line between news and entertainment continues to blur. To connect with the young millennial viewer, as Samantha Bee clearly has, requires the ability to turn weighty, important matters into entertaining video clips.

Reason #2: She goes “full frontal” with field reports

Another major distinguishing feature of the show is the reliance on field reports, rather than just having a host sitting behind a news desk. That’s a sharp departure from what you typically see with other late night shows, which are long on sit-down interviews and sketch comedy bits, but not so much on field reports.

By getting out into the field and out of the studio, Samantha Bee can often expose the ludicrousness of certain views. For example, a feature on the “Deepest State” promised to reveal “malicious government employees” at work. What ensued was hardly anything but.

As an example of the type of field reports that Samantha Bee does is an investigation into the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) and the fate of female soldiers coming back from combat. Samantha Bee has also filed field reports from outside the U.S., like a popular piece she did that was filmed in Jordan.

The show does interview guests occasionally – an interview with President Barack Obama in late 2016 was a notable exception – but Samantha Bee pulls heavily on her previous work as a correspondent on the “Daily Show.” Bee’s goal is to arrive at important truths by getting out into the field.

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Reason #3: She presents a woman’s point of view on news and culture

Let’s face it – the late night TV landscape is relatively barren of female voices. Think of all the late night TV hosts – they are all men. And even when it comes to “The Daily Show,” Samantha Bee was completely passed over as a potential host for the show when Jon Stewart announced his retirement. So Samantha Bee decided to launch her own show on a different network.

It’s the type of perspective that TBS likes to tout somewhat irreverently. On the show’s website, TBS proudly hails the show as a welcome addition to “late-night’s all-male sausage fest.” While not all the segments are women-centric, there are definitely some that are focused on women (like on the segment about female soldiers). And she also enjoys dropping the “V” word as often as possible.

Reason #4: Samantha Bee focuses on stories at the edge of politics and culture

While other late night TV show hosts focus more on Hollywood and pop culture, Samantha Bee has her sights set much higher: on the current political scene. Take the example of the recent alleged hacking of the U.S. election by the Russians. That led to Samantha Bee doing a feature on Russian hacking and Russian trolls. But it wasn’t just the obvious take on the Russian hacking scandal – it also mocked the gullibility of people who would actually believe any of the clumsy attempts to change American views.

And, given all the Trump-fueled paranoia about the “Deep State” trying to take him down, Samantha Bee now features some merchandise on her website with “Deep State Alumni” emblazoned on the front. Just as someone might walk around with an Ohio State Alumni or Michigan State Alumni sweatshirt, you can now wear a Deep State Alumni sweatshirt!

Reason #5: Samantha Bee has mastered the art of creating viral content

In today’s digital world, what matters is being able to get your content shared and picked up by others. In other words – it’s important for that content to go viral. And that’s something that Samantha Bee has mastered, making it easy for her fans to package up her content and share it widely. At times, the weekly show almost feels like a pre-packaged collection of viral YouTube clips, all ready to travel out into the ether and win over new fans. And it’s exactly her brand of “full frontal” content that is best able to go viral. It’s at times shocking, other times hilarious, and still others, shockingly hilarious. But it is always pure Samantha Bee.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” has picked up some stellar reviews from fans and critics alike. The first season of the show, which started in February 2016, has a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That made the decision by TBS to renew the show for a second season a no-brainer. Samantha Bee is a comedic force on late-night TV, and her rapier-like wit is only getting sharper each week. She has clearly figured out a way to offer a relevant, satirical analysis of current events and the political agenda.

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Categories TV

Why You’ll Love “Anne With An E”

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There are certain stories that stay with us throughout life, and resonate especially clearly in adulthood. They are stories that have been placed firmly into our memories and we are unable to dislodge them. One of those stories most certainly is “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery; it’s a timeless coming-of-age story of an orphan who maintains her imagination and positive outlook in the face of all adversity. For that reason alone, you’ll love “Anne” on Netflix. It brings the classic novel to life in a brand new way.

Classic and timeless

For so many young girls, Anne Shirley (played by Amybeth McNulty) is their heroine. She’s an orphan coming of age on Prince Edward Island in Canada, and learning how to make her way in the world. Along the way, she must overcome her own tragic past and deal with a host of other problems as she confronts them.

And, along the way, she has an unquenchable zest for life and a high-spirited imagination. That’s why you’ll find the cinematic updating of this novel so thrilling – you’ll be thrilled by the made up worlds that Anne has created for herself, and you’ll view each new episode as a fun adventure as Anne learns more about herself.

So many of the themes and ideas in the new Netflix series are timeless, classic and enduring. Whether it’s making sense of the first pangs of true love (in classic Anne fashion, she clumsily whacks her future lover over his head while at school), or making sense of impending womanhood (such as all the signs of female puberty), Anne is truly making her way in the world.

A more realistic updating

The one point where purists are going to come to blows is how much Netflix should have updated this series. From what we’ve seen from released scenes and the trailer, the overall look of the series will be somewhat moody and gray. This is in sharp contrast to the typical way that “Anne of Green Gables” has been adapted for TV. In those version, the series is usually very bright and cheery, in order to convey the optimism of Anne.

So fans of the 1908 book are already having online debates about just how realistic this series should be, especially in its treatment of Anne’s past life. She is an orphan after all, and throughout history, orphans have been cast as bringers of woes and troubles. But dwelling too much on this side of “Anne” might make the series too downbeat. It should be positive and full of imaginative storytelling power. So we’ll have to see how the new Netflix series deals with this issue.

The good news is that there are still plenty of scenes of dreamy romanticism. For example, there’s one particularly thrilling and uplifting scene where Anne is standing on a cliff, with her hair blowing in the wind, and staring out at the sea.

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A real Canadian gem

It should be pointed out that, since this was a Canadian book, the series is premiering first on Canadian TV (CBC) before coming to Netflix. And all of the scenes were shot in Canada – that includes some gorgeous scenery from Prince Edward Island and Southern Ontario. There’s beautiful scenery of Green Gables, of course, which leads Anne to exuberantly declare, “It’s so easy to love Green Gables, isn’t it?”

This is a far superior remake of a former 1985 TV version of the show, which many point to as the definitive version of “Anne” until now. The Netflix version (known as “Anne With an E”) has been adapted by Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Moira Walley-Beckett and boasts some really first-rate dramatic talent, including Amybeth McNulty (as Anne), Geraldine James (as Marilla Cuthbert), R.H. Thomson (as Matthew Cuthbert), Lucas Jade Zimmerman (as Gilbert Blythe), Dalila Bela (as Diana Barry) and Corinne Koslo (as Rachel Lynde).

Eternal childhood friendship

In childhood, it always seems like there is someone who is destined to be our friend and supporter forever, and in this case, it’s Anne and Diana. In the Netflix trailer, we see them pledging their eternal love and devotion to each other, and that’s something that makes us feel good inside. This story may be more than a century old, but it still resonates with today’s girls.

Anne takes on all adversity as she approaches womanhood

In many ways, Anne is fearless. She can take on any challenge, even those that might appear impossible to others. One example is where her new schoolmates start to bully her once they find out that she’s an orphan. One girl says to Anne, “I won’t eat next to dirty trash.”

And, in the very first episode of the show, Anne must deal with the fact that her adopting family originally wanted a boy, not a girl. This is a farm, after all, and a young boy who can grow up to take care of things is always more valued than a girl. At one point, Anne actually tries to run away, so you can imagine how hurt and rejected she initially feels.

The wonderful Green Gables

As the final episode (Episode 7) of the series makes clear, the farm is the symbol of friendship and love. It is something that unites generations of family, as well as something that brings friends closer together. So we can’t wait to see all the scenes of early twentieth-century farm life. That lifestyle may seem quaint today, but all of us can identify with the enduring themes of rural life. It’s the reason why people today are enamored of spending the day at the local farmer’s market. The farm stands for hard work, dedication and a certain purity of soul. And these become enduring values that we associate with the Cuthbert family, including Anne.

Once these 7 episodes of “Anne” hit Netflix on May 12, it’s easy to see how people are going to be binge-watching them to catch up with their favorite red-headed heroine. Anne has been a favorite and a role model for generations of girls, and now they will have a chance to see her in a Netflix series. It will help to bring their dreams and imagination to life. And thus the cycle of a timeless classic will be continually renewed, as the next generation of young girls learns about Anne of Green Gables.

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Categories TV