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Virgin marketeers join ntl for rebranding

# 11 May 2006, 17:47 by Frank

According to a report in yesterday’s Guardian, ntl are looking to recruit Virgin marketeers James Kydd, the brand director at Virgin Mobile, and Ashley Stockwell, the Virgin Group brand marketing director. The objective is to overhaul the merged group’s poor image as part of a bigger strategy to alter poor customer perception of the company.

After the formalities of the Virgin Mobile shareholder meeting on May 23, and assuming the merger goes ahead after this vote, Mr Kydd will take the top marketing role at ntl Telewest. Mr Stockwell is understood to be assuming a position equivalent to head of brand, wrote The Guardian. Mr Kydd and Mr Stockwell will report to ntl Telewest COO, Neil Berkett, according to company insiders.

The merged company is also expected to ditch its infamous ntl moniker, and replace it with a new Virgin-related name early next year. This would allow ntl Telewest to tap into the marketing and brand potential behind Virgin’s consumer-friendly image. Whether the rebranded company will operate any differently remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see whether Richard Branson will allow his valuable Virgin brand to be associated with ntl’s infamous customer service record.

NTL is regarded as a stagnant brand and many observers argue that the Virgin brand alone – over and above allowing the cable operator to become a “quadruple play” offering TV, broadband, fixed line and mobile telephony – was a critical determining factor driving the £962.4m acquisition.

One wonders how the ntl brand would be perceived if ntl invested the money into customer service, rather than an expensive rebranding exercise. Instead, however, ntl has recently announced 6000 “back office” job losses, along with the decision to outsource more of it’s customer contact centre staff.

At media union Bectu, official Sharon Elliott summed up the recent job losses very well: “Once again British workers have first heard about job cuts through the media. The apparent decision to outsource call centres sends a strong message that quality customer service is dispensable.”

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