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Qwest renews pride in service
Company touts offerings in ads, holiday catalog
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Saturday, December 2, 2006


Qwest Communications, which once made "Spirit of Service" an advertising focal point, has increasingly moved to traditional product marketing.  One of the latest examples is a holiday catalog mailed to more than 3 million residences in the telco's 14-state phone region.

"I think Qwest is going back to the blocking-and-tackling type of brand marketing," said Steve Silvers, a principal in GBSM, a Denver management consulting and corporate communications firm.  "If the brand is not a negative, you don't have to apologize for it."

Laura Sankey, Qwest's executive vice president of marketing and communications, said "Spirit of Service" remains the foundation of the company's commitment to customers.  She noted all advertising includes the phrase, one TV spot still features it, and the message is regularly conveyed by CEO Dick Notebaert.

"But right now, consumers are believing we are able to deliver that service," Sankey said.  So they want to know more about Qwest products and services.

Silvers said big companies typically have simultaneous image and marketing campaigns.

"Spirit of Service," developed by Sankey's predecessor Joan Walker, may have helped repair Qwest's image, but it never exactly answered the "why buy" question, Silvers said.  It came at a time Qwest was trying to put to rest financial scandal and a perception of poor customer service.

The current mix of Qwest advertising, Silvers said, reflects that Qwest believes its reputation is neutral or positive.

Susan Bennett, Qwest's director of direct marketing, stressed the catalog still tries to convey the "Spirit of Service" by making sure the products and prices are clearly spelled out to consumers.

Qwest also has become more aggressive in a series of TV ads that make fun of cable companies raising their Internet prices.  In a recent "Jack My Price Up" TV spot, the host of a fictitious game show delivers a new cable Internet price of more than $3,000 to a homeowner.

Sankey said she doesn't consider the TV spots to be "attack" ads but rather ads promoting Qwest's "price for life" guarantee for high-speed Internet service, juxtaposed with cable company increases.

"We did it purposely with humor in it so it wouldn't be an attack ad," she added.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/tech/article/0,2777,DRMN_23910_5184854,00.html