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· Original article·

A Shopping Network Wants to Own the 17th Letter of the Alphabet
By ALLEN SALKIN Published: September 21, 2007 on NEW YORK TIMES

A CLASSIC Sesame Street animated short instructs that the letter Q “looks like a funny looking thing.” QVC, the leading home shopping channel, is making a bid to rebrand the Oftenoverlooked letter, betting that it can make the sight of the letter Q elicit not a laugh nor an immediate search for a U, but a feeling of delicious anticipation. “We’d really like to own the 17th letter of the alphabet,” said Jeff Charney, the chief marketing officer for QVC, which is based in West Chester, Pa. The company, part of Liberty Media, began a teaser campaign on Sept. 4 that relies on a Q-based mystery1. Billboards in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia ask the question: iQdoU2?

This weekend, the riddle will be solved. The billboards will reveal a Q-heavy QVC logo, supplemented by full-page ads in every section of The Philadelphia Inquirer and a 30second television spot. The spot will run on the Fox News Channel and some broadcast network daytime shows, including “The Price Is Right” in October during the week the new host, Drew Carey, makes his debut. Mr. Charney said the target audience — women 35 and older, with household income of more than $50,000 — watch Fox, not MSNBC or CNN. The television ad features QVC on-air personalities, customers and product designers uttering variations on the sentence “I Q.” One of the faces is Whoopi Goldberg, who will be hawking her own line of linens on the network next year. Another face is Carson Kressley of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” (note the first letter in the name of the show), who designs a signature clothing line for QVC. He delivers the spot’s last word,

“Merci Beau Q” • The new logo is only part of the network’s face-lift. Other components are a redesigned Web site, new on-air graphics, more colorful shipping boxes and an overhaul of the monthly magazine QVC Insider3. The new logo — the fourth in the company’s 21-year history, and the first new one in 14 years — shows a thick Q meant to look as if it were made of the type of ribbon used in giftwrapping. The company is aiming to highlight the pleasant experience of the package’s arrival. “The essence of the brand is the feeling you get when you open the package,” Mr. Charney said. The strategy is novel, given that QVC’s greatest weakness may be that it cannot deliver the instant gratification of a bricks-and-mortar store, said Geordie McClelland, director of strategy at Straightline International, a branding agency. Roughly 80 percent of QVC’s sales come from its on-air presentations and 20 percent from the Internet. There are other big challenges, not just for QVC, but for the television-shopping industry. IDEO, a design and innovation consultancy, conducted market research for QVC and found that avid customers described the company as “relevant, innovative, genuine and fun,” a step up from the original QVC acronym, “Quality, Value, Convenience.” But most of those who have never ordered continue to think of QVC as no different from hard-sell infomercials. QVC’s nearest competitor, HSN, formerly known as the Home Shopping Network, is well aware of this negative perception. It introduced a rebranding campaign this year, pegged to its 30th anniversary, adding nicer graphics and higher-end merchandise. HSN also sought to take the edge off its sales tactics, adopting a more conversational onair approach that it calls “Shopping with your girlfriend.” Hosts were encouraged to soften their makeup and update their hair styles. “It appears that QVC is responding to the massive, all-encompassing, rebranding initiative that has been under way here at HSN since the beginning of the year,” said Brad C. Bohnert, an HSN spokesman. Because QVC is available in 166 million homes worldwide 24 hours a day, the company has in the past spent little on television advertising. At any given time, for every person watching who makes a purchase, there are 100 to 150 watching who do not, making for a lot of potential new customers, said Michael George, QVC’s chief executive. QVC declined to say how much it was spending on the campaign. According to TNS

Media Intelligence, in the first half of this year, QVC spent about $5.2 million on advertising, $4.4 million of that in magazines and most of the rest on the Web. QVC’s campaign to place the letter Q at the center of its consciousness began in June 2006 with an internal effort called Qforce4. Each of the company’s 13,000 United States employees was given a QVC T-shirt and told that the person who could get the most spectacular product placement for the shirt would win $10,000. There were some impressive gets. Peter Fey, a writer/producer at QVC, persuaded his sister Tina Fey, the comedian, to show the shirt during a guest appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Another employee wearing the shirt had her photo taken next to Donovan McNabb, the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, and the photo appeared prominently on the team’s Web site. The winner was Bern Gallagher, a broadcast engineer who organized a belly flop competition in West Chester for an autism charity in which contestants wore the shirts. The local Fox affiliate covered the contest live. QVC has not purchased the rights to the Broadway show “Avenue Q,” but at the unveiling of its logo to employees Wednesday in West Chester, a house band called Q Man Group (with special guest Motley Q) performed rock songs. QVC also turned to its advertising department of 20 people to develop the new logo and the campaign. They market-tested 146 different logos. IDEO’s market research confirmed what the shopping network’s employees had known for a while, that devoted customers were calling the network “the Q.” “You’ll go to dinner parties and mention you work at QVC,” Mr. George said, “and all of a sudden you’ll hear everybody talking about what they got on QVC, the jewelry they’re wearing, the pot they’re cooking with, and a lot of people talking about how they ‘Q.’ ” Despite that head start, gaining cultural ownership of a letter is not an easy task. During a meeting with Mr. Charney and Kathleen Kirsch, a QVC spokeswoman, Ms. Kirsch was trying to describe the Q strategy. “When you give someone an M, they think of McDonald’s,” she said. “When you give them a G, they think of — what is it, Georgia?” She turned to Mr. Charney for a response. “Or Green Bay Packers,” he answered. It can be confusing., a competitor of, tried adopting the slogan, “It’s all about the O.” But as another Sesame Street cartoon noted, Q “looks like the letter O with a stem.”


·Finding· This passage is mainly about the QVC’s strategies on popularizing the brand. QVC, which is short for "Quality, Value, Convenience", is a multinational corporation, which specializes in televised home shopping. Driven by the pressure coming from its opponents, QVC decided to rebrand the oftenoverlooked letter “Q”, betting that it can make the sight of the letter Q elicit a feeling of delicious anticipation. QVC is carrying out a lot of steps to generalize the letter in order to remind customers of their products and services at the sight of “Q”. QVC’s campaign to place the letter Q at the center of its consciousness began with an effort called Qforce4. Each of the company’s employees was given a QVC T-shirt and was involved in a competition to get the most spectacular product placement for the shirt. After that, it carried out a teaser campaign that relies on a Q-based mystery1. Then the riddle was solved by revealing a Q-heavy QVC logo on billboards several days later, supplemented by full-page ads in every section of The Philadelphia Inquirer. But those are only part of the network’s face-lift. Others include redesigning Web site, new on-air graphics, more colorful shipping boxes and so on.

“QVC” is a totally strange word to me; I have no idea if it is an organization or a term in a certain industry. I even do not want to find out its meaning, since it is as boring and professional as a nomenclature that will never ever be referred through our whole life. My feeling, in a way, indicates most of the customers’ feelings when they catch sight of the company’s name in the first time. The name, which is simply an initialism of three words, is neither attractive nor impressive. It is a good idea to expand the company’s influence by rebranding and emphasizing the letter “Q”, which is unique, lovely, and easy to remember. I do think that QVC has taken a successful measure on popularizing their brand, however, there still has some spaces for improvement. Trying to impress the customers, QVC did a very well preparation for

rebranding its logo. The QVC-shirt placement competition4 and the Qbased mystery1 are creative, original and effective to broaden the company’s influence range. All in all, the company had a very successful promotion that strikes the customers’ eyes. The company also took a lot of efforts to symbolize themselves of the letter “Q”. They created a lot of cute words and remodeled the usage of Q. Q was used as a verb such as “I Q do U?”2. In this fascinating way, customers can remember the company easily and deeply in their mind. In addition, QVC carried out a serious of steps for network’s face-lift3. Redesigning Web site, new on-air graphics and so on gave people a fresh perspective on this company. The renewal of a complete unit can attract more attention and give a completely different sense to the public. The company also made use of some expertise companies such as Straightline International (a branding agency) and IDEO (a design and innovation consultancy) to help it carry out the renewal campaign. These expertise companies may contribute a lot to the market research and logo design and assure the plan to be implemented with great efficiency. Nonetheless, QVC still has a long way to go. A Chinese company named Tencent indeed owns the 17th Letter of the Alphabet in China. It is so successful that nearly everyone in China associate “Q” with the company. “QQ”, Tencent's instant messaging service platform, brings wide spread fame for the company. It keeps developing new services and designing attractive software appearance to allure young people. What’s more, Tencent designed a cute penguin named QQ as its logo, which is so lovely and unique that people soon remember QQ as well was the company’s name. From Tencent’s successful promotion strategies, we can conclude that if QVC wish to expand their market more, it should focus on refreshing its service mode and using new technique. Also, there must be a more symbolistic and marked logo that can deeply impress the customers. In that way, QVC may have a brighter future. i



i Bold-face with superscript can be found correspondingly in the original passage.

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