VERIZON WIRELESS CASE STUDY
MillennialPlus’ brand positioning strategy, brand voice and creative visuality work demonstrates the power of rigorously wrought insights on generational and life-stage values based on identity and cultural research. Our work for Verizon Wireless showcases MillennialPlus’ ability to differentiate brand communications in a highly competitive environment. The work strategically sets a path to seize share and reduce customer churn by targeting Millennials in the right tone at the right moment.
For many years, Verizon Wireless has been a leader in wireless network coverage and reliability. “Can you hear me now?” spoke to call quality and cellular coverage concerns a decade ago. Today, concerns about wireless service are based on demand for data to support messaging, apps, and video streaming on devices — with data consumption split 40/60 between cellular and Wi-Fi. This behavioral shift has prompted questions regarding carrier choice and functional benefits. T-Mobile has attacked with messaging focused on pricing and pain points, and AT&T has ramped up its customer-friendly image. We needed to help Verizon speak to a generation of customers who have redefined the rules of wireless.
The Strategic Challenge
Verizon sought strategic thinking on Millennial consumer values and generational influence, as well as target definition, brand positioning, and tone. The aims of the strategy development and near-term planning were to increase net additions, respond to competitive threats, seize market opportunities shaped by new generational preferences, and ultimately, drive brand choice. We needed to realign the brand with Millennial values and go beyond price and coverage in order to differentiate.
A Framework For Value
Utilizing the MillennialPlus conceptual framework as well as extensive primary and secondary research, we examined a range of market drivers to understand the mechanism of value perception in both emotional and functional terms. We honed in on a target that would allow Verizon to authentically engage, increase net adds, and influence peers and family members. Based on a strategic assessment, we conducted a creative exploration. We recommended a messaging shift, created a coherent tone and style, and crafted a plan to connect and optimize communication channels.
Our process included a mix of methods in order to develop a multidimensional understanding of Millennial wireless customers.
- Cultural probes
- IDIs and a focus group
- In-store ethnography
- Expert interviews
- Digital ethnography
- Secondary research
- Competitive analysis
- Syndicated data
Identifying a Sweet Spot Among Millennials
To set the tone for potential communications, Verizon Wireless needed a target amenable to their principles. Our recommendation: target older Millennials, aligning Verizon’s brand benefits and characteristics with this cohort’s emotional values and life stage. This would allow the brand to create a relevant and consistent communication platform that would reverberate up and down, reaching customers in the older Alpha, younger Millennial, and younger Gen X cohorts. Proprietary Verizon studies and quantitative secondary data (e.g., BLS, WDS, GfK, Comlinkdata, eMarketer, Census, Nielsen, and Pew) helped inform a more comprehensive view of the brand’s “sweet spot,” taking into account factors such as education, income, and household composition in addition to values.
Strategic Assessment of Rival Carriers
MillennialPlus analyzed the messaging, strategic value propositions, and spending of core competitors to benchmark their business and communication strategies and sharpen Verizon’s rational and emotional position. While competitors used price and data allotments to do battle, Verizon needed to prepare for second-tier competitors reaching effective network parity. Once these competitors successfully upgraded their LTE networks, they would erode the functional advantage of Verizon’s premium network. We saw the need to exploit emotional relevancy to mitigate unsustainable acceleration in investments for demand creation and a greater share of voice.
To Do More, Expect More
The bottom line: Millennials are partial to services and tools that help them free up their time and enable them to make the most of their wireless devices for planning, capturing, making, and sharing experiences — to broaden their horizons, explore their potential, and to curate their identities. Rather than rely on the facile assumption that Millennials just want “more, more, more,” we focused on the reason for their elevated expectations, which stem from their resourcefulness as well as their ability to self-guide their achievements, design better lifestyles, and tangibly change the world.
To bring the messaging shift to life, we developed two concepts that demonstrate how the idea of “to do more, expect more” can be realized in the form of narratives and visuals. “Stargazing” is the story of a father traveling in a remote area for astronomical research. Thanks to Verizon’s network reliability, he is able to video chat with his daughters and share the stars — even the shooting stars — with them. Though the main message is that the network is empowering, rather than being mentioned overtly this is communicated through the emotional impact of the moment.
In “Wingman,” we follow a young wireless customer on her journey to a Tinder date. We see the anticipation mount through her conversations with her friend, who has volunteered to serve as her virtual wingman, and her date, who reveals himself to be a potential catch. The story shows the importance of network reliability and speed in human terms.
Connections Across Media & Geographies
To boost relevance in the face of attention scarcity, we recommended building a foundation of enrichment and reciprocity across diverse formats. The aim would be to delight and empower consumers in continuous meaningful engagements. The brand would reap returns to augment those from its larger ad spend.
Since Millennials switch media platforms every few minutes, we took a multi-pronged approach to building an emotional connection. We advocated for an ongoing program of organic social influencers, seeding, and interest-based participation in order for Verizon to reclaim its preeminence in the minds of younger wireless customers.
MillennialPlus addressed Verizon Wireless’ softening position among Millennials by understanding the target from multiple perspectives, developing a foundation of empowerment and reciprocity, striking a relevant tone, and gaining social momentum through ongoing engagements. The work informed Verizon’s 2015 Super Bowl campaign resulting in positive net additions in Q1 and Q2 of 2015.
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