I have spoken to the Visible Wireless team a number of times since the Verizon-owned D2C cellular brand launched four years ago. One of the things I have noticed about talking with Pearl Servat, head of brand Marketing and demand generation, is that she answers all of my questions about marketing strategy ultimately by talking about product attributes instead.
Whether it is the value proposition of inexpensive Verizon 5G network access, or the quick sign-up and activation process on one’s own phone, or the transparency of no-surprises pricing – Pearl clearly believes that the Visible Wireless product itself is its best marketing tool.
As I think is clear in our recent conversation, she is a big believer in omnichannel marketing, but she clearly regards the product experience as one of its most powerful channels. In her view, marketing is not supposed to “sell” the goods so much as get the prospect to the product experience as efficiently and clearly as possible. Call it invisible marketing. You can listen to the entire podcast at this link.
MediaPost: How would you characterize the trajectory of Visible Wireless four years since launching as a brand distinct from your parent company?
Pearl Servat: I’m really proud of the success that we've been able to create. We've been really deliberate about defining everything that's true about Visible in a really unique and standalone way from what you see with our parent company. And the brand was created for digital natives and the younger millennials who prefer everything [in an] on-your-phone experience. That's why the brand was created.
MP: In terms of marketing channels, what has been the major channels for growth?
Servat: An omnichannel approach for us is the way to go, and I’ve been really happy to see that term gain some prominence again, especially in the past 12 months or so. And I always say as an all-digital brand, you just have to know how to lead the consumer to your digital storefronts - no matter if you're doing digital-only or off-digital channels.
An example of that is direct mail. You just really have to be thoughtful about how these channels are working hand in hand together. We are, I would say, omnichannel, both digital and non-digital, so traditional with a heavier lean on digital. So when you're talking lower-funnel search, obviously that works really well for us. And for upper funnel, a healthy video mix works for us really well as well.
And then we have a really strong affiliate marketing program that has been a valuable part of our success, really from the birth of the brand. So for us [to] have learned that, you obviously have to know how and when to optimize each individual channel. But this mix of tactics that really helped to build the brand and draw attention and drive intent, more than anything, have to work hand in hand together really well.
MP: Direct mail has come up often during the pandemic, especially among D2C brands. They are finding it has a real power that as digital-first companies they never expected.
Servat: It does. It's those touchpoints where you're able to meet your consumer and allow them to get to know the brand. Ignore the fact that it's an “old-school” channel, because you should be focusing on the how: What's your messaging and also what's your creative, and how does it immediately capture the attention of the prospect? That message is sitting in front of me on my kitchen table or in my counter every single day.
So if I haven't thrown it out, I’m seeing it every single day. As a consumer, I’ve always found it to be really valuable. When we launched [direct mail] last year, we saw an immediate spark, and we actually saw a lot more incoming than through our social channels. But, ultimately, the biggest takeaway for us is that “how” element. What's your messaging? What's your creative, and, then, how is it aligned with all of your other marketing touchpoints and the marketing ecosystem as well.
MP: What do you think has been the most successful message that aligned with the Visible Wireless brand?
Servat: Our value prop. I mean our value prop is, if not THE, is one of the most attractive in the market. You're essentially getting the Verizon service for as low as $25 or $40. So we try to take from a channel like direct mail, which is truly direct response, so I have to capture your attention within the first four or five minutes of you receiving that piece of mail. We lead with the value prop, really hard-hitting messaging, we try and remove all the bells and whistles and tonal copy and everything like that. There is an appropriate place for that, but it's not direct mail.
We also implement QR codes within our mail pieces. Just click on that QR code and it brings you immediately into our ecosystem. If that doesn't work for you, we also have the unique URL codes as well. But you just have to be super-intentional about how quickly you're delivering that message of what the product is and what the conversion experience is for the person that you want to bring into the fold.
MP: You just mentioned three things that people thought were dead: direct mail, unique URLs and QR codes. And all of them you're telling me are working pretty well. I just think that's fascinating. So what have been some of the biggest learnings about this process of building a brand pretty much out of whole cloth?
Servat: It’s about the consumer experience and every touchpoint, and I think oftentimes it's really, really, easy to lose sight of that. And when I say that, I mean in every touchpoint, meaning your actual product, your customer service, the conversion experience and the path to purchase, and then marketing is sort of the icing on the cake. Be steadfast about how you speak to them, how you bring them into the fold, how you create trust. We have to earn the consumer’s trust, and we were really intentional about it from day one. A seamless product experience is also critical.
MP: How does Visible smooth the relationship with the customer at every touch point?
Servat: Make sure that your customers are your evangelists. Everything happens on our app literally within minutes. And that's it. I cannot make it sound more complicated than that, even if I try. And your bill will truly be what you sign up for today.
I was with a carrier prior to joining Visible. I sign up for a service that was $85 unlimited and that's it. My first bill was $140 because of all the things that they forgot to tell me about. Come to our website, it takes I think like 10 minutes to sign up and put in your information, and then download the app and activate from there. Unlimited everything and every single month your bill is exactly what you signed up with.
MP: What newer channels are you using to grab that younger demo?
Servat: I think some of the newer paid social channels for us that I can give you examples of: TikTok is a new one for us, and then we just recently relaunched the brand on Facebook and Instagram, just over the past couple of months. We have the advantage of having a CMO who came from TikTok, so she understands the social landscape really, really well.
And the name of the game is to make sure the ads and the units that we’re running on these platforms speak to those specific audiences. And for a platform, especially like TikTok, your ad has to almost look like a TikTok post, it has to be really endemic to that platform.
So I think that's something -- that once we determined we were going on TikTok and when, and this literally happened over the past couple of months, we did a reset with ourselves. [We] got on the phone with TikTok, talked to them about creative best practices, and even marketing best practices on that channel: How do you speak to this audience, what captivates them, what pulls them in? And then we developed our strategies around that.
So it was sort of a learning journey that we went on to make sure that we were getting it right from the onset. So paid social is the biggest thing for us. Make sure that your creative shouldn't have a huge variation between everything else that you see in the digital ecosystem, while still being endemic to that platform.
MP: Any presence in gaming?
Servat: We've doubled in that area. I can't reveal much yet, but we've dabbled a little bit, with more to come on that later this year. But I can tell you where we are live as of today that's really quite interesting. So, this morning actually, we launched a huge partnership with the Match Group, it's a first of its kind.
Visible is a carrier where we pride ourselves in offering a single line experience to consumers who don't want to be on a family plan, then you're penalized because you have to pay a lot more like I did when I was single. So we've created this product that's perfect for people who just want their own single line and want it to be unlimited everything and don't want to compromise. So we approached the Match Group in Q4 of last year about doing this really cool creative marketing partnership with them.
Wedding season just launched. We’re all spending a lot of money on our married friends, on wedding registries and baby registries and engagement gifts and things like that. So smack in the middle of wedding season, we decided to launch this campaign that celebrates singles because, why not. So we launched this registry in partnership with Match for folks who are single. The registry is live today for you to create your wish list and then send it to your network, so that they can buy these items for you. And the campaign benefits girls who code, of course, but it's across the whole ecosystem of the Match Group on all of their platforms as well.