There are few activities more tense than developing a logo and branding strategy for a new business line. As Covington Electric Cooperative in southern Alabama learned, Pioneer Utility Resources has the staff expertise to generate broadband buzz.

In an explosion of creativity and teamwork, Pioneer and CEC joined forces to name “Buzz Broadband,” the cooperative’s new, wholly-owned broadband subsidiary, and create excitement in the community and within the utility.

CEC partnered with Pioneer to create a brand and logo to:

  • Capture the imagination of consumers and utility staff
  • Train employees about broadband services and benefits 
  • Establish a style guide to ensure consistent communication and messaging
  • Create marketing materials to educate current and future consumers about the fiber network’s potential impact on economic development and community needs.

Creating a network to meet needs 

For nearly 80 years, CEC has provided electrical service to its members, stitching together six counties with 2,700 miles of power lines in a service territory nearly as large as the state of Connecticut. As member needs evolved, the co-op has grown. 

According to CEC Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Parker, member requests sparked the co-op’s decision to build a fiber network. When CEC surveyed members to gauge interest, 89% of respondents said the co-op should offer broadband.

A fiber network also offered operational benefits by enhancing the efficiency and security of CEC’s distribution system. Six months after program development began, the utility was ready to introduce Buzz Broadband to consumers.

Building the Brand

From the start, CEC determined the broadband service needed a unique identity.

“It’s a fiber-based service. To me, it’s not an electric service. It needed a name so it could stand on its own,” Mark says. “We asked Pioneer to develop names to look at. The internal group that voted on the options liked Buzz Broadband. We grabbed onto it and ran from there.”

The logo reflects the new brand’s connection to the utility.

“The high quality of electrical service Covington Electric Cooperative makes Buzz Broadband an easy choice for member-owners,” Mark explains. “People think very highly of the cooperative. It has helped us build a product people really like.”

Once the brand name was set, the utility partnered with Pioneer to develop a logo, honeycomb design elements, digital and print advertising templates, a video, and content for the new program’s website.

Pioneer Senior Graphic Designer Cherokee Spivey, a CEC member, designed the Buzz Broadband logo and the signature honeycomb look. 

“I was absolutely thrilled when I heard Covington was going to offer broadband,” Cherokee shares. “There is such a dire need in our area. I have such a sense of pride when I see the Buzz Broadband trucks working around town, and when I see yard signs of current customers that say “We are buzzing.” I think the need and excitement of the community was proven in the amount of people that signed up to show interest. I am anxiously awaiting the day Buzz Broadband is available to me!”

Honeycomb design elements were reflected in CEC’s 2021 annual report, further strengthening the identity of the new brand.

“I think it’s really caught on,” Mark says. “A lot of people identify with it. They know it now when they see it. It’s worked out very well for us so far.”

Covington Electric’s 2021 Annual Report reflects hive-inspired artwork and a theme, Focused on the Future, to showcase the story of Buzz Broadband.

pioneer utility services iconDesigning a new or refreshed logo? 

  1. Consider scalability. A logo should work on something as small as a pen and as large as a billboard. 
  2. Keep designs simple and clean. Busy logos cause consumers to turn away.
  3. Experiment and think out of the box. Be unique to avoid blending in.
  4. Design a logo to both make people think and represent your core concepts.

 

Buzz Broadband Marketing Campaign Elements

Setting a shared style

When creating a new brand, setting clear expectations about how to communicate is crucial. A style guide ensures messages are consistent across your organization, logos and visuals are used appropriately, and communications have the same tone.

“It gives you a standard,” said Mark. “You will be consistent, so what the member sees isn’t confused with another brand.”

pioneer utility services iconThinking about a style guide? 

  1. Include typography, how a logo should be used and how it shouldn’t be used, color palette, and samples of how branding should be represented 
  2. Disperse the style guide to any person or outlet using your logo or brand
  3. Keep it short. No more than between three and four pages.

Training Staff Sets Service Expectations

Consumers were not the only audience CEC needed to engage when launching Buzz Broadband. To support the co-op’s 76 utility staff members learning about broadband for the first time, Pioneer led a series of training sessions.

Covington Electric staff Maury Coale, Jacqualyn Crawford and William Baines received training before the brand launched for consumers.

All employees gathered for a Buzz Broadband kickoff celebration and a full day of training. Staff worked together to learn the basics of a fiber network, speed comparisons and system components. They received branded shirts and other promotional items to help solidify the brand identity.

Then, Pioneer led a six-week training program to help CEC’s member services representatives have good conversations with Buzz Broadband consumers.

Covington Electric Member Services Representative Kimyola Shine was one of Pioneer’s Content in the Wild contest winners in 2021. Her winning picture includes both the coloring book and a door hanger used for new service communities.

“It’s important to reinforce training to ensure the initial energy and excitement about a new project continues,” Pioneer Director of Accounts Sarah Lancaster says.

Pioneer’s consumer service training includes:

  • A survey of staff before training.
  • An on-site three-hour training session for staff.
  • Daily email refreshers and tips sent the week after the session.
  • Weekly email refreshers and tips for weeks two through six after the session.
  • Biweekly check-in calls between the trainer and the utility’s consumer services manager for six weeks
  • A follow up survey six weeks after the initial training with staff 
  • A follow-up webinar six weeks after initial session
Engaging and Educating Future Consumers

During the pandemic, broadband access for students was important.

As a part of its outreach, Buzz Broadband partnered with Pioneer to create “Buzz Joins the Internet,” a coloring and activity book designed specifically for children. The special publication educates the next generation of co-op members about broadband.

Buzz flies through mazes, highlights how to make smart choices online and connects the dots to show children the benefits of broadband.

“If you can build the identity and they recognize Buzz Broadband, hopefully when their parents start looking for broadband services, the kids can show it off,” Mark says. 

The book features word puzzles, maze games, connect the dots, and other activities to teach children about safety and security while they are online.

“The coloring book was so much fun,” Cherokee says. “The bee characters were all original designs, but some of the activities were found on Adobe Stock and customized.” 

A mom of two young children and a CCE member, Cherokee brought her family to the Covington County Fair when the coloring book debuted.

“My kids thought it was so cool when I told them that I made the coloring book, the banner, and other items at Covington Electric’s booth at the fair,” she says.

Cherokee’s sons, Cruze and Cade, got copies of the activity book their mom designed when it debuted at the Covington County Fair in 2021.
Sparking Social Conversations

Powered by content created through a marketing agreement bolstered by Pioneer Social support, CEC earns a steady stream of custom broadband messages for facebook.com/fastreliablefiberfrombuzz

One content series, Buzz Basics, explains common broadband terms — reliability, bandwidth, ISP — and gives the utility frequent opportunities to answer common questions. Custom holiday messages reinforce the expansion timeline.

The top engagement rates per impression come from short videos and animated content,” Social Media Content and Account Manager Laura Araujo says. “When it comes to consumer comments, the top-performing social content is a series that features Buzz’s cartoon bee and the various adventures it goes on to showcase everything Buzz Broadband offers.”

Through Pioneer Social, Laura schedules content and helps monitor Buzz Broadband Facebook questions.

“When we’re crafting social media messages, we try to create content that both educates and entertains,” Laura adds. “I think this approach resonates with Buzz Broadband’s followers. They learn what they should expect from a high-quality broadband connection; at the same time the images are fun and visually appealing with a clean, consistent look.”

Building More Buzz

Branding doesn’t stop when a new service launches. Buzz Broadband began with a 211-mile-long fiber ring, tying all CEC’s substations together to strengthen communications and service for all of the co-op’s 23,000 members. When complete, it will have between 1,500 and 1,600 miles of mainline fiber.

CEC uses local pages inside Alabama Living, the statewide magazine, to keep members informed of Buzz Broadband benefits, project developments and service area growth.

 

By mid-2022, the network connects about 800 consumers to high-speed fiber internet. To reach take-rate goals over the coming years, CEC will work with Pioneer to keep buzz building with print and digital advertising campaigns. 

“We felt Pioneer would augment our staff and meet our need to get the program running,” Mark says. “They were very helpful, always prompt in what they were working on, and came up with some very good ideas.”

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