Verizon Connects With Consumers Through Experience

Verizon Wireless is relying on a mix of word of mouth, blog chatter and local newspaper and radio ads to attract attention to its newly opened retail store in Boston.

The 6,600 square foot store announced Friday offers consumers a high-tech and hands-on experience with wireless voice, data, music and video services. The store, one of about 100 now open across the country, displays more than 55 working phones, broadband services and integrates kiosks for easy check and bill paying. Eventually, Verizon plans to convert most of the 2,400 company- operated stores and kiosks nationally. AT&T Mobility began opening similar stores earlier this year.

As Verizon stores are converted or opened, ads will run in local newspapers and radio stations, according to David Thomson, Verizon Wireless spokesman. For the Boston store opening, the company has street teams to attend local events in Verizon-wrapped vehicles that can demonstrate services and phones. "The vehicles go to different store opening and organize giveaways" he says. "Sometimes it's done in conjunction with a local radio remote or festival. Most of the national advertising is done by our parent company, Verizon Communications."



Wes Brown, a partner at Los Angeles consumer marketing-research firm Iceology, says Verizon's advertising phrase that asks "Can you hear me now?" has become so well known that there's no reason to spend serious money to advertise services. "The phrase has arguably reached iconic status, which adds to the experience message Verizon tries to communicate in the stores," he says. "This is one reason why Apple's store works well. It fits the Apple image and lets consumers walk in and experience what it means to be part of the Apple family. Or, it lets people peer in the window and see what they are missing."

For Verizon Communications, advertising spend remained essentially flat in the first calendar quarter 2008, compared with the year-ago quarter. The company spent $401.4 million this year, up from $399.6 million in 2007, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. That's less than AT&T, which spent $465.7 million and $555.4 million, respectively, the research firm said.

Allen Adamson, managing director of brand development consultancy Landor Associates, New York, says Verizon and AT&T have been following Apple's lead by trying to connect with hard-to-reach consumers via "experience stores" as traditional advertising loses favor.

Verizon Wireless says it has invested more than $45 billion to increase the coverage and capacity of its national network. Regionally the company has invested nearly $2.2 billion into its New England network, including over $292 million in 2007.

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