A Moment of Silence For Time Warner Cable


Time Warner Cable was far from perfect, but it will be difficult to let it rest in peace.

Left: the iconic former Time Warner Cable logo; Right: the new Spectrum logo — yet to become an icon?

When it comes to spewing vitriol, hell hath no fury like an angry Time Warner Cable customer. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since it has the worst customer service score in any industry, according to a 2015 survey by ACSI. A litmus test for terrible service could be when a celebrity the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart loses the will to live, or so he conveyed on Twitter.

St. Louis, MO-based Charter Communications has recently acquired both Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, making it a Jedi force to be reckoned with amongst cable providers, now serving more than 25 million customers. With Liberty Broadband’s backing as Charter’s main shareholder, a new vision for the industry as a whole might well be in the making. And with the players of that industry generally being poorly rated on customer satisfaction surveys, for Charter Communications that vision seems to require a break from what we know: terminating its legacy brands and forging a new one for all its consumer-facing cable operations — Spectrum.

The devil you know …

While we can only speculate what AT&T will do with its soon to be acquired Time Warner entertainment offering, we can pause to consider the consequences of killing the iconic, albeit hated, Time Warner Cable brand (which spun off from Time Warner in 2009). The experience we have with Time Warner Cable lives in our emotional cortex as many of us have memories — nightmares, even — of our trials and tribulations with getting our internet and cable service to work properly when we move to a new address. It is not a challenge to ask anyone to write hate mail on Twitter or any social media outlets relaying our personal horror story. At this point, we might even consider it a passage into “adulting.”

When The Wall Street Journal posted that the FCC had approved the acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications, it wasn’t a surprise that the feedback from customers on social outlets wasn’t positive. Commenters noted that “craptastic internet” would now take over America; they also left kind words regarding Comcast’s pervasiveness in remote areas and the lack of choices present for service providers.

Occasions like these can redefine your business.

When examining the dilemmas Charter faced with their acquisitions, one can draw parallels to the variety of paths that other brands took when confronted with similar challenges, such as AT&T & Cingular or United Airlines & Continental Airlines. In fact, United Airlines could serve as an ideal case study on post-merger branding activity; it visually unified the best of both worlds while investing in its digital presence and services.

The best of both worlds: the well-crafted design merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines

Inherently with mergers, there is bound to be uncertainty and unease for all major parties involved: investors, employees, and customers. In the case of Time Warner Cable, while its significant customer base was warmly welcomed, Charter’s chosen strategy was to kill the brand in an effort to squash the negative sentiments that came along with the package. Their chosen path is a valid one, because what better time than now to envision a new, bold brand in this category allowing it to be even more competitive with challengers such as Google Fiber. But after all, this is an exciting category, enabling us to do what we enjoy most — communicating with our loved ones across the globe, and enjoying quality entertainment.

The only thing worse than hate is indifference

Earlier this year, CEO Tom Rutledge stated he intends to invest heavily in increasing hiring and bringing call centers back to the US in an effort to address and improve the customer service issue. That’s good news for consumers, and it will be good for business.

Shifts in strategy like these are what new brands are crafted for. If done well, brands make them visible — and attractive. A new brand can be a guiding light to all stakeholders during a change process, and an inspiring foundation for product and service innovations. Yet Spectrum’s appeal is bland. Execution for the brand rollout has been lackluster. Finally, our experience with the cable provider feels like a car insurance purchasing journey.

The overall appearance of the new Spectrum brand — from overtly stock imagery to the design of the brand elements and generic messaging — lacks uniqueness and fails to excite.

If starting over also means thinking over, we don’t understand the rationale that led to the Spectrum we see in front of us. If our relationship with Time Warner Cable had been a bad one, the new one we just entered is one we’re ambivalent about. And unfortunately, that’s never a good start for anything.

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