I can feel the pain the marketing team for the wireless division must be dealing with at Verizon, even more so now the news was just announced that AT&T had indeed signed a 5 year agreement to distribute Apple’s now infamous iPhone. So, Verizon is locked out through 2012 before they can think of carrying the now icon status phone.
Of course, this was a risky move on Apple’s part, to lock in a distribution partner for a relatively new product in an untested market. But, clearly each party recognized the importance of helping each other out – from the development plans and specs to which features should be offered or not. In the end, it was a brilliant move.
So, what do you do if you work in the marketing communications department at Verizon? As a marketing and business plan writer, I can relate.
First thing is to bridge the “product divide” by offering as close to a product replacement as possible, which they clearly have done with the Android. But, for those of you who have actually gone into the store and tried using the Android followed by the iPhone, you know that there really isn’t much of a comparison. In the end, I personally chose the iPhone based on ease of use, product design and the simple fact that my 3,000+ song library will seamlessly connect with my new phone.
What do you do next? One option is to re-define the debate. For example, a new importance or decision factor could be introduced into the mix that might cause a reconsideration of the purchase. For example, the network coverage of Verizon could be argued as being more comprehensive – clearly this is also a strategy they have pursued. Further, I would suggest that this strategy could be exemplified by noting that all the data traffic that the AT&T network now has is starting to clog it up, such that iPhones are now not being sold in New York anymore. But, the downside to this type of strategy might lead some to conclude that “everyone is now going to AT&T, so what am I doing at Verizon?”
New features is another angle, to them message that “if you want X, then you need to go with Verizon.” For example, perhaps there is some type of value added service or partnership that could be established to offer a new value to those with Verizon, such that the loss of not using an iPhone is less of an impact. Then, plaster the market with this new offer. How about advance, limited screenings of new movies that can be seen on your Verizon phone through a special user interface that is securely offered to just Verizon customers? Or, perhaps there are a series of local events that could be sponsored by Verizon that their customers are exclusively invited to? The communications could then be focused on the fact that the phone company you choose should be based on more than what a particular phone they offer.
But, in the end, it is a long, uphill battle for the Verizon marketing communications team for now, at least until the end of 2012, or until when that contract can be ended. My guess is that considerable efforts are now being done to try and “woo” Apple into breaking their AT&T contract, and that AT&T is spending an equal amount of time to ensure the agreement is air-tight … which is probably an excellent use of their time.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.