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Why Verizon is banking on digital natives

Verizon-owned prepaid wireless service Visible is largely invisible to the US mass market, but that may change if its latest quirky marketing efforts and low prices grab the imagination of the digital natives it is courting.

Visible is the 18-month-old secondary prepaid brand for Verizon Wireless, the largest US wireless carrier, and its raison d’etre is all about cost-savings.

To keep prices low for its digitally oriented millennial and Gen Z customers, Visible has a service-as-an-app approach and is keenly focused on viral messaging. That viral focus has led to Visible’s latest unique marketing push – a referral programme called Party Pay that offers lower prices for new and existing customers willing to band together.

Unlike the usual group or family plan, Party Pay users have their own accounts and pay their own Visible bills. There is no plan manager, and every person in the Party – Visible’s term for a group of users – can invite another user. To maintain the youthful vibe and casual feel of a real-life shindig, some Party members may not even know the other members. Visible does not share members’ contact info, though they can see fellow members’ first names and parts of their phone numbers.

Any customer can log onto Visible.com to create and name their own Party. Visible cautions that it won’t accept naughty Party names and will even change them without notice if it decides later that they are offensive.

Visible provides a website address containing a user’s selected Party name, which can be shared via social media, text, email or maybe even a note written on the back of a napkin. Existing Visible customers can click the website link to ask to join the Party but must be approved by someone in the Party. Non-Visible customers must activate Visible service before they can ask to join a Party, even if they previously received a link to the Party website.

A Party is limited to a maximum of four people, and Party size determines how much each person pays per month for a plan – the only one Visible offers – with unlimited data, messages and minutes. Four people pay $25, three pay $30 and two pay $35. An individual pays the standard $40 per month for a Visible line of service. If someone leaves a Party (or doesn’t pay their bill), remaining members’ monthly service fees will increase by $5, unless they add another Party member before the next due date.

The rules governing Party member interactions are somewhat Byzantine. Members can leave a Party, but they can’t be kicked out. So, if a Party member approves someone joining a Party but another Party member objects, the only options are to “resolve the conflict offline or leave the Party and start a new one,” Visible says. The latter option is the digital equivalent of taking one’s ball and going home.

As if young adults don’t have enough opportunities to feel rejected, Visible adds another. A customer can enter the name of a Party they know about on the ‘Parties’ tab of their account and ask to join, but they may not be accepted. Visible gives them a limited – though unspecified – number of attempts to join a Party they don’t have a direct invitation for. To avoid the creepy stalker label that might be generated by multiple attempts to join a Party, Visible recommends that customers whose Party application is rejected should find a new party to join or create their own. “It’s best not to request to join again,” says Visible.

Whether this latest marketing push will drive significant customer additions at Visible is anyone’s guess at this early stage. The brand is certainly willing to stick out its neck with non-traditional offers that will either provide a roadmap for success or lessons in how not to market a service.

NS Tech and GlobalData are part of the same group