Verizon Targets Women With Hub Phone

Telecom Enlisted IVillage Community to Help It Market All-in-One Device

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NEW YORK ( -- Of the estimated $200 billion spent on retail consumer-electronics products in 2007, $90 billion, or 45%, was likely spent by women, according to the most recent research by the Consumer Electronics Association. Yet, many consumer-electronics marketers don't directly target them.

Verizon Hub: 'Home phone reinvented.'
Verizon Hub: 'Home phone reinvented.'
Verizon, however, isn't just targeting women with the Hub, its all-in-one, broadband communication device -- it also sought their help in marketing the product. Moreover, it will devote half its marketing budget toward courting the demographic. A national campaign will break in April.

The Hub, dubbed "the home phone reinvented," was launched earlier this year and sells for $249.99 with a two-year contract. Monthly service is $34.99. With the Hub, users can make unlimited calls; locate family members using GPS; text, e-mail and video message; buy movie tickets; and more. The Hub will be sold and distributed through Verizon Wireless.

The marketing was honed and informed from extensive research using members of the iVillage community. Why iVillage? Verizon's initial market research indicated that the primary Hub purchaser would be a "lifestyle manager," and most often, that person would be female. The company started talking about developing a relationship with iVillage last year at the CEA's annual Consumer Electronics Show, where iVillage touted its ability to connect marketers with consumers by using unique "high-touch engagement." Verizon, already an advertiser on the iVillage site, was intrigued by this new opportunity.

"Marketers are curious about how [to] take advantage of conversational marketing," said Peter Naylor, senior VP-digital media sales at NBC Universal, which owns iVillage. "This is one way to enter into a dialogue with your prospective customers."

Focus group
In April 2008, iVillage sent a note to the community soliciting feedback about the Hub in the form of a 10-minute survey. Some 265 women who met the survey criteria (they were broadband subscribers, 25 or older and lived in households with at least two people, among other things) watched an online video demonstration of the Hub and gave candid feedback. The marketer again reached out to the iVillage community in June and July, and posed follow-up questions to more than 70 women. In that case, women were asked questions in a private message-board forum -- and could respond to each other's thoughts on the product.

"The feedback was invaluable," said Suzy Deering, executive director of corporate marketing for Verizon.

Verizon learned, for example, that women were drawn to the multiple features of the Hub that were right at their fingertips. They were particularly interested in the device's calendar function and its ability to text to multiple wireless handsets, Ms. Deering said. As a result, Verizon will promote those features aggressively in its marketing for the Hub.

IVillage women were also drawn to a navigation feature that allows the user to look up directions on the Hub and send them to a wireless device, so that feature is highlighted in the TV advertising.

In one 30-second TV spot for Hub, a girl looking for a dress for a special occasion sends a picture of the dress to her mother, who is at home with the Hub. Mom receives the picture, looks up the location of a different dress shop nearby, and sends her daughter the information -- all with the Hub.

Overall, Verizon learned from iVillage that it shouldn't play up the bells and whistles of the product but instead emphasize what it ultimately does: connect families. "Women are receptive to technology, but they aren't interested in how technology works," Ms. Deering said. Both Verizon and iVillage declined to share financial details about the partnership, citing Verizon's competition, but Ms. Deering said the Hub has a "healthy" campaign behind it, and "is completely taking the home phone to a new level."

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