QVC Aims to Insert 'Q' Into Pop Culture

Q&A: CMO Jeff Charney on Rebranding Home Shopping

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After 21 years, any brand could use a makeover. That was the approach Jeff Charney took when he was charged with creating the first-ever national advertising and marketing campaign for QVC, the home-shopping network. A cable TV staple since its launch in 1986, QVC has steadily grown in household carriage and sales to become the second-most-profitable network (CBS is first), according to a Broadcasting & Cable annual survey.
QVC aims to make 'Q' its own, in its new 'iQdoU?' campaign.
QVC aims to make 'Q' its own, in its new 'iQdoU?' campaign.

Yet harnessing a young-and-hip brand identity for a network based on phoned-in transactions by Midwestern housewives wasn't exactly easy. "It was a very different challenge from any I've ever had," said Mr. Charney, the network's senior VP-CMO.

Carson, Heidi, Whoopi
A marketing veteran of the e-commerce space, Mr. Charney's previous gig was another kind of home-shopping site, homestore.com, a real-estate community where prospective home-owners could browse new houses and apartments. His greatest successes came in the form of buzz marketing and word-of-mouth, which is why he was tapped by QVC 18 months ago to spearhead the network's biggest branding initiative.

With a growing number of celebrities turning to the network to hawk their latest fashion lines and side projects in recent years -- Whoopi Goldberg, Paula Deen, Heidi Klum, Paula Abdul and Carson Kressley among them -- Mr. Charney aims to insert QVC into a celebrity culture.

"QVC has always tremendously been a part of pop culture, but people don't really understand what's going on. We thought if they understood us better, they would probably consider us more as a destination," Mr. Charney said.

All about the Q
His ploy to turn QVC into a buzzword? Focus on the "Q." In the national brand campaign launched last week, the network's first letter is used as a catch-all verb to describe the QVC experience, "iQdoU?"

And the new on-air look also makes use of a new lime-green logo, which frequent QVC vendor and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" co-host Carson Kressley got some mileage out of last week. Having an identity apart from competitors like Home Shopping Network is key in what Mr. Kressley calls the "merchentertainment business." He added that he noticed a difference in the network's look and feel during his 24-hour appearance last Thursday to shill for his new clothing line, Perfect.

"It's all about the Q," Mr. Kressley said. "There are so many resources for people to shop that it's about standing out and the things the make you different through rebranding, both for the vendor and the consumer."

Although it was too early to gauge how well his overall sales performed last week compared to his previous engagements, Mr. Kressley said he noticed anecdotal improvements just in talking to customers as they called in to buy his clothes. "As the customer becomes more and more satisfied and more confident, you realize you're providing a great product."

Now that the QVC brand is rallying around its signature letter, MediaWorks sat down with Mr. Charney to get more of his thoughts on established-brand marketing in the form of -- what else? -- a Q and A.

MediaWorks: You've been working on the QVC rebrand for a year and a half now. What were some of the first steps you took to shifting the brand to its Q-centric status today?

Jeff Charney: We started by forming a Q-force with QVC employees, which really got people to understand branding in a bigger way. So that turned into the Q Lounge, something done internally in the company. When I first came here, I was tired of people coming to meetings with their head in their hands, sneaking in and selling. So we started these Q Lounges where a Heidi Klum or a Carson Kressley or a Paula Deen would come in and I'd interview them live for 3,000 employees to really get a sense of who they are.

MediaWorks: Why "Q"?

Mr. Charney: Q is a sexy, cool letter. It's much better than an L or an A, which are tough to brand. Q is an easy, great letter we can own 24/7. We had not unwrapped the brand in 21 years, so we took a very unique unwrapping strategy by talking to consumers and seeing what this brand means to them. And they told us it was about giving them an unwrapping-of-a-package feel. So we worked with the [branding] company Ideo, took their research and took it to every aspect of the campaign. From a billboard perspective, we wanted to put "IQdoU?" everywhere to develop curiosity. So if you saw it in Times Square and thought it was going to be Nike or Apple you didn't know it was going to be QVC. Then we started going deeper into the campaign, really talking specifically about why QVC and what you need to consider about QVC, and then give the specifics of what's inside the package. That way once you open it and find out what's inside, you'll be fascinated.

MediaWorks: What was the companywide initiative behind this campaign?

Mr. Charney: Our customers told us they were really proud of us and a lot of people didn't really understand that. When we did the research, there was an intense amount of interaction. We actually went into the customer's home, ate dinner with the customer, went shopping. We really wanted to understand the customer and how they associated us with run-of-the mill other home-shopping networks and really felt that story was the one that needed to be told.

MediaWorks: And how will you define success? Is it sales? Is it brand awareness?

Mr. Charney: Just being part of this consideration set. We've been out there a few days [with the new look], so there was a lot of testing of the logo and the campaign prior to the launch. "IQdoU?" can cause that wink that real successful brands have. At least over time, we want more people understand this brand, we're not looking to drive sales through this. In the long run, the more people consider the brand, the better we're going to be.
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