Verizon Positions Its Music Phone To Detract Attention From iPhone

Cingular's competitors are desperately trying to make sure they aren't completely forgotten amidst the barrage of hype and media impression surrounding the iPhone's long-anticipated arrival in Cingular and Apple stores today.

Sprint announced a new branding campaign this week, and that it was dropping Nextel from its moniker. Verizon Wireless has been bombarding the wires with press releases every day for the entire month, making sure that the latest additions to its V CAST service--as well as facts as pedestrian as most of its phones having a world clock--get noticed.

Just as the headlines were blaring notes from reviews of the iPhone declaring that it is as great as the magic Steve Jobs promised, Verizon Wireless came out with a release that was as feeble as Paris Hilton's Larry King interview.

Titled "Verizon Wireless Stores Open All Day June 29 For Customers To Test Drive The Nation's Most Reliable Wireless Network, Purchase Any Of 18 Multi-Media Music Devices," the release advised the public that Verizon Wireless stores would be open during their regular business hours and that Verizon Wireless offers a range of phones with music capabilities. As neither of these bits of information are news, the announcement rings as a hollow PR counterstrategy to the attention surrounding the iPhone's arrival.



"Everything we do is a counterstrategy because this is a competitive business," Brenda Raney, Verizon Wireless spokesperson, told Marketing Daily. "A new entrant into the marketplace means we have a new competitor. This is business as usual for us."

The announcement, Raney explains, highlights that today will be a regular day of serving customers on America's most reliable network for Verizon Wireless. That's a contrast to the chaos that's likely to ensue at Cingular and Apple stores, which will close between 4:30 and 6 p.m. to prepare for the iPhone's debut, and then will stay open until 10. But given that eager iPhone customers have been waiting in line for days in advance of its arrival, that hour-and-a-half closing during the store's operating hours will likely go noticed only as a countdown to the moment when an iPhone will be in their hands.

Among the 18 music playing devices Verizon Wireless is promoting is the LG VX9400 phone, which is being offered for $99.99 after a $50 rebate with a two-year contract. Customers will also get a free Music Essentials Kit that includes a stereo headset, a cable for music transfer from a PC to the LG VX9400 and a 2GB memory card that can store up to 1,000 songs with purchase. That's a steep discount to the iPhone, which will sell for between $499 and $599, depending on memory, plus service contract.

Raney declined comment on the rumor that Verizon Wireless is working with frequent partner LG on adapting its Prada phone for use in the U.S. Doing so would give it a ready competitor to the iPhone, as both devices offer sleek design and touch-screen navigation.

Once Verizon Wireless gets through today, Raney says, its marketing plans will continue to be "business as usual."

"We've always had music-playing devices that offer a number of features and continue to do that," Raney says. "We'll continue to run the advertising that we have always run--we're big advertisers in TV and print and radio, and we'll continue to be."

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