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Verizon Asks: Are We Really Friends With Our Friends?

IMB_Kin_Phone1 An often quoted stat about the new reality we lives in today points out that 20 years ago the average American had less than 25 friends. Today the average American has more than 200. Of course, we all realize on some level that this blossoming of friendship doesn't equate to having 200 best friends. In fact, the ties we have to the outer fringes of our social network may be very thin indeed. That's the subject that an interesting campaign launched by Verizon is trying to explore.

Rather than trying to get you to "defriend" the people you don't think you know, the campaign asks a much more interesting question. If you had the chance to meet your online friends in real life, would you learn they were really your friends, or little more than strangers? To find out, the company found a girl named Rosa and decided to send her on a journey across the US to connect with her online friends in real life. They armed her with a KIN, a new phone which seems to be either made by Verizon, Sharp or Windows (they don't really say) and recorded video of her travels.

It's a marketing campaign that fits squarely in between the concept of a documentary and a social experiment, but it works because you want to know what Rosa will discover. Not only for her, but because it has some meaning for each of us who keep these virtual relationships and wonder what they really mean. It's not that often that a marketing effort can turn the lens back onto a cultural phenomenon that we are all living through right now. This succeeds brilliantly at that and is worth watching.

From a marketing point of view, however, the campaign equally brilliantly demonstrates how a lack of connection can make life confusing for a consumer. Details like the KIN Studio or the KIN Spot are features that sound important, but are shared on Facebook without any real explanation of what they are or why someone should care. Ultimately the Facebook page relies on product imagery and placement to make you aware of the product and make you want one.

The connection to how the phone might actually help you better filter your network or find out who your real friends are (both things the campaign focuses on) are missing to connect the phone to the bigger message they are sharing.  What this leads to is that the campaign may stay in people's mind for the questions it raised and the story it focused on telling, but the phone (and company behind it) will be easily forgotten – like a subtle product placement in a TV series that you might notice, but never really makes much of a difference.

  • http://www.techipedia.com Tamar Weinberg

    “They armed her with a KIN, a new phone which seems to be either made by Verizon, Sharp or Windows (they don’t really say)”

    Based on the video, I’m going to imagine it’s a Sharp device powered by Windows Mobile (the OS) that is offered on the Verizon carrier only.

  • http://www.marketersstudio.com David Berkowitz

    Great analysis.

    What’s funny for me is that I’ve seen the ads mostly in the movie theaters, and I did see at least one semi-controversial clip on a blog (with the kid who was sexually harassing her), and I always thought it was produced by Microsoft. I never knew Verizon had anything to do with it, nor did I know the Kin was carried on Verizon. I was even confused when I started reading your post and wondered why you were discussing Verizon when it was Microsoft’s campaign (as per my awareness of it).

    And WE work in advertising – which is the only reason I knew the phone was called the Kin at all.

  • http://www.yalwa.in/ Amit Sharma

    Nice post Rohit, but I think you missed the difference between being a ‘friend’ and being a ‘fan’. Your post discussed about friends but in video ‘Rosa’ visits a person, she is just,one of countless ‘fans’ People usually like to become fan of famous personalities but to expect them to be friends in real life is a bit far stretched idea. Surely we all have online friends that we might have never met in real life, but to compare them with ‘fans’ in same breath is not justified in my opinion.
    Nevertheless thanks for insightful comments on the Verizion’s marketing campaign.

  • http://www.rohitbhargava.com Rohit

    Thanks for the comments:

    @David – Thanks, great points. Interesting that you had the same confusion about who was behind it … and as you point out, we are predisposed to pay attention to this because of what we do!

    @Amit – Good point, and I did see that video of her meeting someone she was a “fan” of and you’re right, it is a bit inconsistent in how they filmed it (probably for dramatic effect). The premise of the project though is still all about her meeting all her friends, which I think is great.

    @Tamar – I’m sure you’re right, that makes total sense … it’s still tough to tell which of the three companies is behind the marketing campaign, though.