Verizon Wireless connected with Memphis’ African-American community by engaging the enthusiastic choristers from Miracle Temple Sanctuary Apostolic Deliverance Temple and Holy City who vied with finalists from six other congregations in a musical extravaganza called How Sweet the Sound. The gospel-hour-meets-reality-show sing-off drew 11 000 supporters all rooting for their favorite choral group. It also was the culmination of a two-month marketing campaign that resonated with a hard-to-reach demo that tunes out traditional media but tuned into this effort—one that reached the heart and soul of a city that boasts a church on practically every street corner.
Memphis also is a city enamored of premium provider GTE Wireless almost as much as its gospel music which posed a big challenge to Verizon. “We bought out GTE in 2000 but it had a legacy we had to overturn ” says Robyn Duval associate director for national advertising at Verizon Wireless. “We were in a struggle to gain the community’s share of heart.”
Which is exactly what it did. How Sweet the Sound the brainchild of Erwin-Penland a Greenville SC-based agency which handles local advertising for the brand launched with an information packet that went to 1 800 congregations and elicited nearly 70 audition tapes. A panel of judges narrowed that number down to 15 which online voting winnowed to nine finalists who performed live at a filled-to-the-rafters FedExForum in Memphis. The campaign achieved more than 20 million gross impressions—not bad for a market of 680 000 households. Here’s why you’ll want to… steal this idea.
It reflects the community
Verizon is no stranger to music marketing and when it came to Memphis the market composition was spot-on for a gospel competition. “Each community is different from a music perspective ” Duval says. “The number of churches and church choirs in Memphis made the event more relevant in that market. We felt we could show we were part of that community.”
It harmonizes the event and the product
Verizon ensured that the event and its products were in tune via text messaging and its VCAST music service. During the campaign a special promotion offered videos of the winning choirs on its VCAST website. Verizon subscribers downloaded pictures of their favorite choir to their phones. At the finale once the choirs started singing attendees snapped pictures with their camera phones and used Verizon’s text messaging service to vote for the Memphis Favorite Award. A rolling screen inside the show updated the audience on which choir was winning. After the event Verizon created DVDs of the two-and-a-half hour show which it offered for free in local stores.
It sang the message loud and strong
Verizon tied in with Hallelujah a local gospel radio station and djs from other stations hyped it on air; CW30 a local TV station filmed the road to the competition with news clips about the choirs getting ready for the big day; newspapers also provided coverage. Personnel from Verizon retail stores posted fliers around the community and wore buttons—some even hand-delivered information packets to the churches. In-store p.o.s. reinforced the message. During the competition a roving reporter conducted audience interviews that were projected onto a large screen. A website howsweetthesound memphis.com offered information about the competition and participants; visitors could subscribe to an e-newsletter and vote on the contest finalists.
It plucked at the heart strings
We hear a lot about tapping into passions in this industry but this program did more than that. It weaved itself into the foundation of the community by celebrating one of its pillars. Verizon’s big goal for How Sweet the Sound was to gain share of heart in a community it had struggled to reach says Duval especially in light of competition from GTE Wireless. “In the end Verizon really struck a chord ” she says.