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An Interview with Vonage’s Chief Marketing Officer

From the start, Vonage has been an extremely aggressive marketer, spending hundreds of millions a year to cement the 5,6,7,8’s once-somewhat-enjoyable-and-now-excruciating version of Woo Hoo into the nation’s consciousness (oh, and build its 2 million-plus subscriber base). In April, under pressure from the Verizon suit, the company said it would slash $110 million from its marketing budget, bringing it to around $310 million. 

Wielding that budget will be Jamie Haenggi. The former ADT Security Services VP was named to the newly created position of chief marketing officer earlier this month. Haenggi spoke with us for a forthcoming story on the SunRocket meltdown (see the Aug. 6 issue of TWICE). Since the talk ranged beyond the scope of the specific story, here are some excerpts from the cutting-room floor: 

Haenggi on Vonage’s new approach to marketing:

“We had a strategy at the start to build the brand and build awareness. And since we’ve reached a certain level, with over 2 million customers, we’re scaling back the branding and taking a more direct response approach to acquiring customers. We’re looking for greater efficiency now. 

“We’ll have some new TV ads that go directly at comparing us to cable and traditional phone services. They will have that same Vonage irreverence.” 

On the company’s own viability in light of the Verizon lawsuit:

“We have said that we’re confident in the outcome of the Verizon case, no matter what happens.” 

On the company’s viability in light of the growth of Cable VoIP:

“To some extent, cable has helped us grow the market. We know from our research that some consumers like the bundle, but other don’t. They can see through the promotional pricing. Besides, cable companies aren’t exactly known for their customer service.” 

On the retail channels acceptance of VoIP in light of the recent negative headlines: 

“Our relationship with retail is probably even stronger now, because [unlike cable-delivered VoIP] we’re a national service and they are national chains. We still have very strong partners.” 

One parting observation: throughout our talk, Haenggi frequently referred to Vonage service as a “digital phone” service. Now, I know most VoIP companies don’t like the term VoIP (go figure), but to my recollection that’s the first time I heard an executive from Vonage use the term “digital phone” so persistently. Digital phone is typically what the cable companies call their service, supposedly because it sounds less threatening (and so much cooler than) VoIP. Perhaps with the successful penetration of cable delivered “digital phone” Vonage spied a rhetorical opening…