To Xfinity and Beyond: Comcast's Branding Mistake

Brands are among the most important assets a business owns. They project an identity; they communicate meaning; they serve as the connection point in the relationship between buyers and sellers. Thus, brand name strategy is more than an important marketing decision; it has repercussions throughout a company and into the marketplace. Why do I begin with a reminder about the importance of brand names? I am at a loss to understand the rationale behind Comcast’s decision to re-brand its communication and entertainment services Xfinity.

Author and marketing consultant Al Ries recently wrote a column in which he questions the wisdom of Comcast’s strategy. I do not always agree with Ries because his views often seem too simplistic and based on not much more than a “that won’t work” justification. In this case, I could not agree more with Ries’ assessment that Comcast not only adopted a bad brand name, it is following an unnecessary path. The main flaw in Comcast’s strategy is that it is marketing a brand, not a category. In Ries’ view, a firm’s priority should be to market with an objective of product category dominance. Ries uses McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and DirectTV as examples of brands that have honed their message so that they are known for a specific product category. The Xfinity brand offers little in the way of communicating such category strength.

Critics of Al Ries criticize him for being anti-line extension, and he has certainly opined against brand extensions over the years. However, in this case, Ries has correctly called out Comcast for a branding decision that does not seem to have legs underneath it. It will be an expensive process to re-brand, and Comcast is putting a great deal of faith in consumers that they will recognize, understand, and care about the Xfinity brand.

Ad Age - "Comcast Needs a New Strategy, Not a New Brand"

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