Comcast Uses Many Tongues to Market In Northern California

Comcast has found success by dispatching a Hispanic marketer and a multicultural marketer to the task of attracting and retaining a diverse population.

By Shirley Brady

Looking at how cable’s largest MSO has handled its most culturally diverse area, Northern California, it’s clear that when it comes to marketing to and programming for this mosaic of Hispanics, Asians and other groups, Comcast gets it.

Attracting and retaining business here is so important, Comcast has two full-time employees on the job–a Hispanic marketer and a multicultural marketer, the only Comcast region with both. Leslie Villem handles Hispanic marketing and Natalie Rouse focuses, as she says, on “the rest of the world,” which in this case is 15 cultures. In fact, Rouse is Comcast’s only employee with the title multicultural marketer.

How They Did It

Rouse and Villem work side by side targeting their respective markets, starting with programming, then adding marketing.

Rouse began by working with International Channel Networks and other international programmers to create a lineup of a la carte premium channels customized to each market. The Bay Area now offers almost 40 ethnic channels while greater Sacramento has 12 channels offering broadcasts in Filipino, Mandarin, Vietnamese, French, Arabic, Italian, Punjabi and Russian. A second Filipino network (GMA 7) was recently added, while more programming is appearing on Comcast on Demand, including a “Bollywood & Beyond” movie festival (Aug. 15- Oct. 15) and Fox Sports en Espanol as part of Comcast’s Gratis en Espanol VOD service.

Villem inherited the Canales n package of 10 channels from ICN. “This tier had been sitting out there for a number of years, not really promoted in our market but available if anybody asked for it,” she says. “Part of that was a lot of the operators hadn’t yet realized the opportunity or surge of growth in the Hispanic community [until the 2000 Census]. Once Comcast took over this area from AT&T and realized the high Hispanic population out here, they said we need to start bringing on some new Spanish networks.”

Fortunately, multicultural programming options have exploded. In May 2003 Comcast corporate introduced the Cable Latino package with new Spanish-language channels. This past April, corporate VP of international programming David Jensen added nine multicultural services, including four Hispanic networks, expanding on 38 such deals last year.

Marketing all that programming entails a lot of grassroots efforts– including community events, linking with Hispanic chambers of commerce and ethnic business groups–and outreach via in-language media outlets. Radio is critical to Latinos and other cultural communities, they’ve found, as is marketing that focuses on family life and education. “We’re in an industry that traditionally likes to direct-mail homes,” says Rouse. “With 53% of California’s population being of minority groups, sending direct mail isn’t necessarily the best way to find them.” Case in point: Villem recently outfitted a Hummer to showcase Comcast video (linear and on demand) at 49 events between July and October. Rouse’s cultural events run year-round, while her regular marketing includes monthly campaigns for high-speed Internet–a natural for outreach to Asians, who boast the highest PC ownership and broadband usage in the U.S.

Inside Job

Rouse and Villem have looked inward, too. Comcast’s Northern California call centers established Spanish-language queues to explain Hispanic video services–from basic to digital with premiums, with a mix of children’s and sports programming.

While it’s not economical for a call center to speak in 17 languages, “we have folks in place that we can route calls to,” Rouse says. “We also have a translator service” to assist customer service reps.

[Copyright 2005 Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved.]

COPYRIGHT 2005 Access Intelligence, LLC.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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