We've all done it. We've been on our cell phones or PDAs when our conversation is interrupted by a bad connection, or the call is dropped, and we've uttered: "Can you hear me now?"
Verizon's tag line is the most recognized and repeated, often inadvertently, telecom communications advertising campaign in the last five years.
It's a great campaign, but Verizon is more than a telecommunications brand -- and wanted consumers to know that.
With the success of Verizon's telecommunications brand eclipsing its other market segments, American consumers have not associated Verizon with its other offerings as widely. While it is a consumer brand, it is not one that consumers would necessarily think of in terms of engaging with until it is time to pay their cell phone bills.
It is no small task transforming a well-known Fortune 100 brand in a tightly regulated industry from a brand with strong name recognition in a single vertical to a brand that consumers personally align with across multiple technology media.
The challenge: How to move Verizon from a telecom utility brand to something consumers associate with leisure, entertainment and enjoyment.
The result of the Verizon/Questus NFL partnership is a premier quality, real-time online sports experience. The Verizon NFL exhibits live games and game extras for NFL's evening pro football games. Viewers can follow multiple games at the same time with sound and audio broadcast from the field during the game. The project brings Verizon customers on to the field and into the action. Using six to 10 user-controlled camera angles of the players and the field, Verizon FiOS TV and DirecTV customers can track down and distance figures and progressive play statistics -- all with less than a minute of delay from the field to the customer.
By capitalizing on its FiOS technology, Verizon was able not only to enhance but also fundamentally change the way consumers can experience football. Introducing the NFL interactively to brand enthusiasts and the NFL's most fanatical fans -- fantasy footballers -- Verizon expanded its brand into the sports marketing channel.
By offering consumers immediate service upgrades and access to the Verizon NFL Game Extras, the NFL project creates an acquisition pipeline for new FiOS TV customers. And by enabling customers to experience the NFL in an entirely different, deeper, broader, more consumer-focused way, Verizon aligned with the NFL brand, thereby accurately conveying the NFL in spirit and excitement while expanding its own brand presence on the web.
VerizonSurround: expanding brand identity by uniting fans with artists
Verizon's advanced FiOS platform presented the opportunity to update the company's entertainment presence on the web. Deciding on a brand makeover for its "Broadband Beat" site, Verizon created "VerizonSurround," a destination site designed to be the premiere branded broadband entertainment community site on the web. VerizonSurround enhances Verizon's market positioning as a leader in the broadband entertainment and content distribution space while providing Verizon an opportunity to showcase new broadband services and products.
Audience and project challenges: music entertainment channel
Verizon's challenge was to create artist information and fan microsites that leverage the individual artists' branding to reach new consumers who might otherwise not interact with Verizon's broadband offerings. By capturing the attention of artists' fan base, Verizon expanded its branding into the music entertainment channel.
Verizon created a series of web campaigns that enhanced consumer experience by interactively engaging users while showcasing Verizon's functionality, products and services. As with the NFL project, Verizon's technology drove the key campaign components.
Sweet Escape: one strong brand expanding awareness of another
What better artist to work with to expand Verizon's brand than Gwen Stefani? Stefani, who has her own retail line of fashion and fragrance in addition to her music, is one of the most exciting and original brands in popular music. To coincide with her "Sweet Escape" tour, the Gwen Stefani microsite offers unique tour information, video footage from backstage, and interactive options including Gwen's Tour Blog, where users can post comments, ask Gwen questions and create their own Gwen related fan blogs.
The Sweet Escape microsite encourages fans to participate in contests including the Wonderful Life contest and a viral "Send to a Friend" sweepstakes. Entrants in the Wonderful Life" contest submitted life snap-shot UGC videos that community members rated, commented on and forwarded to friends. To jumpstart the Wonderful Life campaign, UGC viral videos were created and seeded to generate interest in the contest.
Once they reached their ultimate destination, the Gwen Stefani concert, attendees were encouraged to take pictures of themselves and their friends. Pictures taken on phones and digital cameras could later be sent via SMS or email to the Sweet Escape site. Each fan then had the opportunity to make their mark on the Sweet Escape microsite within the interactive tour map.
The UGC components performed extremely well, with millions of views on the videos and entries on the microsite.
Audience and project challenges: the Grammy Awards Show
In preparation for the Grammy Awards Show, Verizon developed an interactive website for new consumers and subscribers. The goal of the campaign was to educate and develop awareness among entertainment television and music enthusiasts on VerizonSurround. The Grammy Awards represented a strong opportunity to get the attention of consumers who might not ordinarily associate the Verizon brand with Surrounds' broadband entertainment offerings.
The VerizonSurround Grammy site provided a space where people seeking information about the Grammys could post comments, view the nominees and photos and interact with Artist Trivia. Users registered at the Verizon Grammy site in New York, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle and Dallas were invited to Grammy viewing parties sponsored by Verizon.
Converting new offline consumers who were attracted to activities associated with the physical Surround Lounge that was built on-site at the Grammys and at remote Grammy party events was an important part of the Grammy campaign. Similar to the physical Surround Lounge at the real Grammy event, each remote party had a virtual Red Carpet so that participants could indulge and record their inner "celebrity" with a mini red carpet experience. Lounges contained flat screen TVs randomizing the different pieces of Surround Lounge, the posted photos taken during the event and a shout-out kiosk where users could post "shout-outs" on the site.
Grammy Surround Lounge, by the numbers
Verizon's Grammy campaign began in mid-January 2007 and ended February 12, the day after the Grammy Awards. The site built anticipation and received a steady increase in page views, with the each day of the week directly prior to the awards show receiving the highest number of page views.
On the day of the event, February 11, 2007, local onsite Surround Lounge crews uploaded party photos to the Grammy's site, where people on-site, as well as virtual users, could see the photos within a few seconds of upload. At the height of the event, local organizers were tracking posts every few seconds to the website. The interactivity between the site and the Surround Lounge physical locations drove thousands of additional unique viewers to Verizon's site.
Verizon met the challenge of implementing its FiOS technology and transforming its brand head on, by aligning with key affinity brands such as the NFL, Gwen Stefani and the Grammy Awards. While acting as an entertainment conduit, VerizonSurround became the focal point for many consumers, who later became subscribers, and existing customers, who became evangelists.
The takeaway? By leveraging Verizon technology to enhance interactivity for users with the entertainment brands they appreciate and enjoy the most, Verizon was able to leverage these brands' toward more favorable brand association itself. Such brand association has proven to be a big winner for all involved, creating a triangle of benefit for Verizon, the entertainers who want to engage with their fans and, most of all, for those fans -- Verizon's consumers.