First-year sales of DirecTV outpaced those of the videocassette recorder. DirecTV shipped 700,000 RCA-made and branded dishes and decoder boxes in its first six months-more than double the estimated 300,000 VCRs moved in that product's first year.
The task of shaping DirecTV into a consumer brand fell to a team led by Exec VP Jim Remo. His two marketing objectives for the '94 launch: create the category of high-power direct broadcast satellite, and identify DirecTV as a brand within that category.
"The service provides [programming] choices that haven't been seen in any other medium .... [but] we had a pretty big job to do," says Mr. Remo, 48, who pioneered the marketing strategy with help from Senior VP Steve Ste. Marie.
DirecTV turned to Campbell-Ewald, Los Angeles, for print and TV advertising that emphasized programming as much as, if not more than, DirecTV's technology. These options include a cable package with both major and low-penetration networks, a digital audio service, pay-per-view movies and a sports programming package featuring out-of-town games not available on broadcast or cable.
"Our ads include a significant discussion of the quality of our service, but programming is what people want," Mr. Remo says.
DirecTV spent $13.8 million on advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
While the majority of it was in TV, the media strategy included magazines such as Premiere, to advertise its movie features, and to tout its event packages.
In addition to advertising, DirecTV set up a three-pronged distribution channel to reach not just rural consumers who might not be served by cable companies, but also urban residents looking to improve or augment their cable service, particularly in sports programming. For that reason, DirecTV is offered through rural utility companies, satellite dish dealers and consumer electronics retailers. Mr. Remo says sales among the three legs are roughly even.
The next marketing step, Mr. Remo says, is to compare DirecTV to other TV options.
"You'll continue to see brand building," he says, "but replacing our category-building messages will be more comparisons to other media, such as cable or broadcast."