ALVISO, CA: TiVo is fighting widespread media scrutiny for allegedly abandoning its brand ideals with an arrangement that would help advertisers better reach its viewers.
The company announced a plan last month that would allow advertisers to post small logos over their commercials when users fast-forward through them. The plan would also restrict the duration that a viewer can keep a pay-per-view movie.
Reports of the new features spread quickly through the media last month, with several articles accusing the company of caving in to advertisers and Hollywood.
Others questioned whether TiVo was abandoning its mantra, "TV your way."
The company is now working with its corporate agency, OutCast Communications, to clarify misconceptions.
The new features aren't as invasive as some suggest, said senior PR manager Kathryn Kelly. "It's non-intrusive, and you don't lose functionality."
But despite TiVo's efforts to explain itself - including an appearance by CEO Mike Ramsay on CNN last week - Kelly said the story persists.
"TiVo is a very well-known brand, and people are very fanatical about their TiVos," said Kelly. "That's the reason the story is still alive."
But some see TiVo's problem as indicative of larger branding issues. Anthony Shore, creative director at branding firm Landor Associates, said that even if TiVo sees the changes in its service as minor, it has still compromised its brand because it has changed how people perceive it.
"If companies don't understand what their brand [promises are], they risk making changes that will undermine the power of their brands in the eyes of their customers," he said. "And once you've done that, it's hard to gain ground back."
But Matthew Cross, brand consultant with Interbrand, disagrees, saying TiVo will be able to bounce back.
"What they are doing is testing the market's willingness to accept this," said Cross. "If their loyal base turns on them, they will stop doing it. And I suspect their base, as loyal as it is, will come back.