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Xfinity rebranding raises doubts among experts

It's been nearly two years since Comcast launched its Xfinity brand, and some aren't sure the cable giant has ever done an adequate job of explaining it to consumers.

Almost two years after Comcast Corp. launched Xfinity to shed its image as a stodgy cable company, the brand will get a big boost in the Philadelphia area.

The entertainment/sports complex rising on the former site of the Spectrum in South Philadelphia will be named Xfinity Live! - intended to reinforce the image of Xfinity TV and Xfinity Internet as thrilling and exciting products.

Comcast says that the Xfinity campaign has been a success and that 47 percent more customers seem willing to consider purchasing Comcast products now that they are branded Xfinity.

"We are seeing great customer response," Peter Intermaggio, Comcast's senior vice president of marketing and communications, said Thursday. "Xfinity has been very successful for us. Xfinity is about ever-improving products."

But experts are not convinced that the rebranding was necessary or that Comcast has explained it well.

Subodh Bhat, marketing professor at San Francisco State University, said the topic of Xfinity came up one day this semester in his graduate-level brand-management course.

"The class consensus was that this did not make any sense," Bhat said. "Comcast has not given us a clear idea of what Xfinity stands for. . . . One fine morning, I woke up and turned on my TV and it was Xfinity" - not Comcast.

And, he said, the name sounds too much like the Nissan car brand Infiniti.

Craig A. Atwater, a lecturer in the Fox School of Business at Temple University, said he wasn't a fan of Xfinity, although he did like Comcast products.

"It appeared on the heels of FiOS and felt to me like Comcast decided they had to do something, too," Atwater said. "But Xfinity, unlike FiOS, doesn't stand for anything, nor has Comcast tried to explain what it does mean for consumers. For now, it's just a label."

Verizon Communications Inc.'s FiOS brand stands for "fiber optic service," which differentiated itself from the cable industry's coaxial-cable infrastructure.

Ronald Hill, marketing professor at the Villanova University School of Business, had a different issue regarding the naming rights of the entertainment/sports complex.

Companies establish themselves as civic boosters by purchasing the naming rights on stadiums and other public venues, and they typically use their corporate names, not brands. "People might not even recognize it's Comcast," Hill said.

"We love the city of Philadelphia," said Intermaggio. "This is our home. And we are proud of the Xfinity brand. And we are putting it out there."