The Ghost of Branding Past

The “Can you hear me now?” Verizon spokesperson has switched carriers. In a what seems to be brilliant campaign (and no matter what you say, ad campaigns do work), Sprint hired the former Verizon spokesperson to say a couple of succinct points on TV:

  1. In the past, Verizon was better than anyone else;
  2. ...But in 2016 all carriers are great; but
  3. The difference in reliability between Verizon and Sprint is now 1%.

Here is how to translate these points.

  1. You used to believe me, and I was telling you the truth all along;
  2. I will continue telling you the truth, and the truth has evolved; and
  3. Why pay more for an insignificant difference (whatever that difference may really mean)?

Verizon could have kept their spokesperson (who was the face of the company for a long time) on a retainer for the rest of his life to avoid this exact situation. Verizon, however, thought its brand was larger than the face of its spokesperson, and they let him go. That is a branding mistake that could cost the company a great deal of business in the future.

The opinion of those leading Verizon’s marketing strategy seems to illustrate that past branding effort of Verizon is done and over, and the new effort will yield better future results.

So, what is the actual truth? Is Verizon smart for letting go of old branding (and letting others own it), or is it a foolish oversight? If you paid the most consecrated strategist in the world $100,000,000.00 to weigh in, his answer would likely be as good as this one free advice: No one knows. The only thing that matters is that there are two teams strategizing to move forward in this story, and both of them are acting upon something.

Don’t let a seasoned veteran, or a consultant tell you what idea is the best. Choose for yourself, and then act upon it. The only thing a seasoned professional or consultant is good for is to help you see the repercussions of your decision to move forward, and in that they have incredible value. They will help you better prepare for that which may come. Never, however, confuse their role with that of a true strategist. Don’t listen to their negative comments as “truth”. Listen to them as “fear” or “lessons learned from past failures” and file it properly in your considerations.

It's only an opinion, but it seems that Sprint will gain a lot of ground with this particular approach, and this may translate to the company capturing a larger portion of the market. Would you be willing to give them a try? It doesn't seem like a bad idea.