When Barbara Goodstein joined voice-over-Internet (VoIP) provider Vonage as chief marketing officer nearly a year ago, she didn’t have a deep background in consumer communications. But she did know that Vonage’s business was dynamic and changing rapidly.
In addition, she knew that most consumers weren’t conversant with Vonage’s product offerings. Goodstein believed Vonage’s new product beginnings called for a dramatic campaign. Working with JWT, Goodstein came up with a new kind of campaign, appropriately called “Crazy Generous.” In this exclusive interview with CMO.com contributing writer David Gardner, Goodstein discusses how Vonage does more than talk the generosity talk, the role of the new "Chief Generosity Officer" pitchman, and how the company plans to differentiate itself from its competitors.
CMO.com: What was the process that Vonage used to find its new agency?
Goodstein: We did a broad search with Dick Roth/Roth Associates. From the beginning, we loved JWT’s creativity and approach to our business. When JWT first presented their concepts for this campaign, they brought to us the idea of “Crazy Generous” and the Chief Generosity Officer (CGO). We fell in love instantly. The elements of the campaign that resonated the most with us were the acknowledgment that people don't want to be constrained by old, cumbersome methods for communicating, and that even with texting, emailing and social media, people still want to connect and talk; they just don’t want the restraints. The connections Vonage facilitates through our innovations aligned perfectly with this message. The angle and positioning of generosity made a lot of sense for us.
CMO.com: Vonage’s headquarters is located near the New Jersey shore. Your process began shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit the area. Did the hurricane impact the process?
Goodstein: Yes, the hurricane had a very big impact on us as a company. We were very hands-on after Hurricane Sandy in helping employees who were displaced by the storm. We opened up our headquarters to serve as a shelter for our employees who were without power, and also provided them and their families with more than 2,000 meals and access to hot showers when they were without heat and hot water. When Vonage called for donations, our employees stepped up and supported their fellow employees who had lost their homes and many of their personal possessions, filling an entire loading dock with necessities in just 24 hours.
Once things normalized for our employees, we sent several hundred volunteers into the community to help with Sandy clean-up last year. We extended that to a permanent volunteer program, where every employee can take up to three days off with pay each year to volunteer in the community. This is in addition to the other things we do as a company to give back to the community. This was another huge reason why “Crazy Generous” hit home with Vonage–generosity is a big part of our corporate consciousness.
CMO.com: This wasn’t the first time Vonage provided aid to hurricane victims. When landline phone lines were knocked out by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Vonage’s broadband connections in the New Orleans area provided crucial connections. Is there something special about Vonage’s Johnny-on-the-spot aid in disasters?
Goodstein: We were very involved in Katrina and have had a long-standing relationship with the Red Cross. There are a lot of situations where landlines are down and VoIP can still connect people, but our generosity is bigger than that.
CMO.com: Vonage’s products aren’t immediately understood by the general public. Were you looking for a campaign that could introduce consumers to Vonage’s products, even though they may not be widely known?
Goodstein: We were looking for a campaign to introduce consumers to the Vonage opportunity, which is all about connections that are made possible through innovation and technology. The campaign showcases Vonage’s use of technology to empower people to connect in a generous manner with their friends and family, no matter where they are in the world. From there, our marketing will feature a lot of our product solutions, including our Vonage World plan and our Vonage Mobile app.
The Crazy Generous campaign will be infused throughout all of our marketing communications, including traditional and digital advertising, digital and direct marketing, and social media. Our Chief Generosity Officer will be used to help spread the word through all touchpoints. His generous spirit will be infused into our communications and business practices whenever possible.
CMO.com: The Crazy Generous pitchman–the Chief Generosity Officer–will likely attract attention, but will he be able to champion consumer voices, too?
Goodstein: Vonage takes the voice of the consumer very seriously. We make it our mission to hear what people are saying and enhance our offerings to meet consumer needs. We are able to elevate the importance of this mission by featuring the CGO as “The People’s Champion” throughout the campaign. So it’s no longer just giving the consumer a voice, but now we’ve given the consumer a face as well. We’ll use that persona to bring the campaign to life, literally.
CMO.com: There are many communications products on the market today. How can Vonage–and its Chief Generosity Officer–differentiate itself?
Goodstein: We believe that generous connections made possible through our innovations and technology continue to differentiate us. We’ll continue to offer and introduce calling plans built based on the needs of consumers. Our calling plans come with features that consumers don’t expect for free from their phone companies, like simulring, three-way calling, and Vonage Extensions, which lets you take your home service and extend it to any other phone, including mobile phones. We’ll continue to use technology to deliver new and innovative ways for consumers to connect with friends and family around the world, without the barriers that can come with high-cost communications services.
CMO.com: Vonage has had to be quick-reacting in this brawling consumer communications market and will likely have to react quickly and decisively in the future. How can the Crazy Generous campaign supply this need in the future?
Goodstein: Crazy Generous is more than a tagline. It’s a business philosophy. Vonage was built on a fundamental belief that technology should enhance people’s lives through improved capabilities that provide a better user experience at lower costs. We have been innovating in support of this belief from the start by using technology to develop easy-to-use, affordable communications services. At the beginning, that meant using the Internet to provide a more affordable way to connect with your loved ones coast-to-coast. Today it means global connections and more platforms with enhanced mobility and flexibility.