As a Time Warner Cable (TWC) customer, I have a relatively plain relationship with my Internet and cable TV provider. Most of the time we check in on each other on a monthly basis: TWC sends me the bill, I pay it. Or I forget to and catch myself grudgingly processing a late-payment premium. Sometimes we see each other when I watch TV and I catch a glimpse of a TWC commercial. And every once in a while, the network goes down and I miss TWC dearly. Nothing really special, this relationship – TWC is almost like a roommate I kind of get along with. Not really an exciting story to tell. Right?
When I walked into the TWC Studio on West 14th Street in New York City today, everything changed. It changed so much that I felt it was worth writing about. I would like to share this experience with you and what better way of doing so than to tell you what it was like from the perspective of the Gen Y TWC customer that I am?
Why it was COOL
Inclusive vs. exclusive experience: while the experience is targeting current TWC customers and is for FREE (yes!! absolutely not one dinero needed), customers are allowed to invite someone – including non-customers – to share the experience with. And on top of that all attendees, young and old, are invited to take pictures, share and tweet until their fingertips bleed.
Social media, we’ve got it: social media is massive in the experience. From start to finish, every component of the studio tour is connected to your online world. A social wall curls its way up to the first-floor ceiling. A new music channel based entirely on social input feeds is introduced to the audience by enthusiastic VJs. Rather than frantically trying to keep up with the tour AND taking pictures at the same time, you get to walk onto sets and get pictures taken of you, while your badge memorizes every stop you made and mails the information to your inbox once you say goodbye to the Studios and go back to your real life.
Welcome to stimulation junkie paradise: no way you will ever stop for very long anywhere on the tour. Because the next exciting thing is there somewhere doing back-flips in the corner of your vision.
Why it was REAL
TWC is an experience facilitator in real life. It allows us to watch TV and to be connected to the Internet. So nothing fits this brand more naturally than to become an experience facilitator in something extraordinary. On three floors, TWC studio strung together a series of channel-based, tour-guided experiences ranging from an ESPN studio (“Does anyone know what ESPN stands for? NOBODY?”) to a green screen experience inspired by ‘Vikings’, a History Channel original.
Actual channel staff was on the floor, helping out and answering questions. You get to meet some of the ‘Kenneth from 30 Rock equivalents’ (their words, not mine) from NBC and discuss who your favorite Late Night Show host is. Meanwhile, professional soccer players are waiting for you on the third floor to give your penalty kick skills a go.
Why it was UNIQUE
Was it the cupcakes and biscotti? Or the fact that you could write a Hallmark card on the spot and mail it? Or maybe the nail salon parlor equipped with the latest intel on nail polish appliqués?
I think it is safe to say that it was all of that combined (I bet you didn’t see that one coming!). And maybe, on top of that, the fact that you could make every piece of the experience your very own. Just like you have grown accustomed to designing your own digital and cable experiences, amiright?
Why it triggered SELF-IDENTIFICATION
You may have noticed by now that this experience had a little bit of everything in store, for a little bit of everyone. From Starz to the History Channel, from NBC to ESPN – every audience segment could step into an experience and call it their own.
At some point during the tour you actually had to make a choice (panic attach!): follow the girl in the astronaut suit? Sit down for a manicure? Get a KIND healthy snack and explore the world of a 24-hour channel for kids aged 2 to 5? I would have loved to do all three. But my sparkly blue pinky finger nail says otherwise.
Why it made me HAPPY
- After preparing for the tour with a warm cup of coffee and two delicious biscotti, courtesy of Cake Boss, we were ushered into an elevator and ejected into a world of fun and challenges.
- Along the tour, we had to spot as many TWC badge swipe towers as possible. Swiping your badge is a pre-requisite to participate in a soccer team helmet sweepstake.
- Green screens helped you to get comfortable on Jimmy Fallon’s guest couch in one minute and catapulted you into a Viking war scene in another.
- And after learning what it feels like to reign over Westeros while sitting on a Game of Thrones throne replica, we could challenge ourselves by trying to repeat the world famous ‘GOOOOOOAL’ that sent Brazilian soccer into a frenzy.
Let’s assume you’re a cable, Internet and mobile provider. Between TV air time and managing monthly bill payments, your interaction with your customer base is relatively standard. There are few opportunities to really connect with your audience. And unfortunately, direct consumer interaction is bad news most of the time. Consumers complaining about downtimes and network issues, unpaid bill premiums and whatnot – it gets really challenging to build positive brand experiences when you are stuck in service hell.
But after today, all I can say is: well played, TWC. You put a smile on my face and a positive thought in my head. I’m glad to be your customer and that another customer like my colleague Angie took me along on this great experience. I’ll see you when my next payment is due! 😉