This post is by Evening UST MBA student Vitaly Demin, a strategy consultant at Eames Management Group.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX57nGKL9l4[/youtube]

If you look back about a year and a half and watch some of the TV ads that Verizon Wireless has had during this period of time, it’s impossible not to see that their brand has been steadily moving into a “robotic space future” (if you will) positioning. It started with Blackberry Storm II and Motorola Droid and then it just never stopped. Over a year later Verizon is still making their ads in the same way. They even managed to present the iPhone 4 in a similar fashion. While there was nothing really “robotic” in this iPhone ad, the “Star Wars and Terminator-like” music still gave you this “future outer space robot” feel.

Here are the a few of the ads just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ED5j7FOXsvU[/youtube]
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2H-3Gf_fL8[/youtube]

That said, the question is: “Is the Verizon Wireless brand losing human touch?”

Branding is all about what people picture in their minds when thinking of your brand. Every time Verizon gets mentioned, I picture this red eye, robots, stars in the dark sky, lightning rods and so on. Try it yourself. Think of Verizon and see what the first thing is that comes to your mind.

As much as I don’t like AT&T for their network quality and customer service (unfortunately, I’m one of those miserable AT&T iPhone customers), they are doing a much better job on staying close to people. They do lifestyle commercials which are very easy to process and connect with—this one, for example:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_YnvjaQ1_E[/youtube]

Sprint and T-Mobile also do a good job of staying “down to Earth” and connecting with customers on the “people” level. Verizon instead is moving into this “robotic” space and I’m not sure how they see a long-term emotional connection with consumers through such brand positioning. The only people they can connect with are high school and college kids who like all these Star Wars and video games themes but obviously that’s not enough for a major mobile carrier. It seems that some decision maker in the marketing department of Verizon is a big fan of all these things and just can’t stop pushing the brand in this direction.

The long-term consequences can come at a high price for Verizon. Once consumers instill this “robotic” perception of the Verizon brand into their minds, it will take a long time and a lot of marketing dollars to change it. I might be wrong. I mean, who am I to criticize marketing strategy decisions of a hundred billion dollar company? Speaking of numbers, between 2009 and 2010, Verizon’s revenue went down 1% while the net income shrunk by almost a half (Google Finance). I’m not claiming there’s a direct connection between these two things but this recent branding strategy that appeared around the middle of 2009 most likely has something to do with it.

It’s really up to Verizon where they want their brand to be. So far it seems that they rule the outer space, not the air.