Are you a very cool, very hip millennial? Do you live your life on the “net”? Verizon’s new $3 billion subsidiary launched a pop-up in Soho to let you know they get you, and they’re like, same!
The new product is Visible, an unlimited phone and data plan for $40 a month that’s managed entirely through an app. Visible sends its customers a SIM card in the mail for their unlocked phone, eliminating the need for physical stores.
To drive that point home, they’ve created the “worst phone repair shop imaginable,” Invisible Phone Repair. The pop-up on the corner of Broadway and Howard Street in Soho features props like a “theft-proof phone case” (“nobody steals a cracked phone!”) and an actor playing an indifferent clerk.
The rest of the space is a series of Instagram-bait rooms full of terrible, ancient relics of our pre-Visible lives, like pay phones in a subway station crumbling like only chronically underfunded public infrastructure can (yuck!), and a ’90s-esque office with a paper shredder spewing reams onto the floor (what is paper?) and an inspirational basketball poster on the wall about “the shots you don’t take” that was in every middle school classroom—which was actually a spot-on reference, and my favorite part of the experience.
The pop-up ends with a journey into our new, Visible lives, winding around a blue-lit zen garden decorated with the carcasses of obsolete landline phones and an actor sitting on the ground in a yoga pose.
“Some people like to meditate,” a placard explains. I sure do!
At the end there’s a lounge serving up energy drinks and musical performances during the campaign, which runs till Nov. 25.
“We needed to find a way to address the needs of the market for digitally savvy consumers that do not need to touch or feel a phone to learn about it,“ a rep told Billy Penn.
This round of Visible marketing is also targeting other millennial hubs like Philly, Seattle and Atlanta. But the brand really doesn’t want you to associate it with Verizon; reps are using start-up language, saying the subsidiary is “funded” and “incubated” by the corporation (disclosure, my dad works for Verizon).
Visible is a natural choice for a company that is dying to shed all its earthly baggage, from wires to humans. Verizon announced in October it’s laying off 44,000 people—nearly a third of its entire workforce. Last year, New York City sued Verizon for not getting Fios to every city household by 2014 like it promised. The company had stopped introducing Fios to new areas for nearly five years because it discovered that installing new wire was expensive. Now, Verizon is piloting a new system where internet services are beamed into homes wirelessly from a nearby transmitter.
Young people are used to being told these days that business models designed to increase profit margins are actually a cool new future — like ride sharing and Airbnb. Verizon isn’t into the messy responsibilities of meatspace anymore—and with Visible, it’s hoping you aren’t, either.
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