Verizon product managers show the dangers of trying to be too cool

In case you haven’t heard, Verizon is launching a new wireless service they call “go90.” The name comes from the product development definition which says that users will now start rotating their phones 90 degrees to watch videos on the go90 service. Now Verizon is a big US telecom provider, but it’s not necessarily considered to be a “cool” company. Companies like Virgin, Nike and Facebook can claim the “cool” crown, not Verizon. Does this mean that the Verizon product managers are making a mistake trying to launch a great product?

The thinking behind go90

So why has Verizon now chosen to implement a new wireless service? The promise of the go90 service is that wireless users will be able to watch primetime shows, live music and sports, as well as the best of the web. Anytime. From wherever. Users will be able to follow their favorites. Like that show, they can’t stop quoting. Or that actor they want to harass, but legally they shouldn’t. Finally, users will be able to cut and share. They can send must-see moments with the touch of a finger. Because relationships must be nurtured.

To further boost the launch of this service, Verizon has a special plan that they are offering to Verizon Wireless users (anyone can use the go90 app): For 3 months, users will be able to watch exclusives on go90 and also get an additional 2G of data on your monthly wireless plan. Clearly, Verizon understands that for the go90 app and service to be a success, they must be able to attract more than just your subscriber base. However, they want to sweeten the deal for their subscribers so that everyone signs up and the service is a success.

In fact, go90 is a form of video streaming service. What this means is that for it to be a success, you will need to have content, a lot of content. Right now, it appears that the service will initially launch with a truncated content offering, including TV shows and music clips from networks like Comedy Central, MTV, and the Food Network; sports clips from ESPN and the NFL Network; and a collection of web programs from sites like Vice and Elite Daily. Verizon believes that they can deliver programming that truly engages with all the news, sports, and live events clips. They believe this is different from what users can get from other streaming services. There are a lot of product manager resumes that depend on them being right!

Why it might be a mistake for Verizon to play perfectly with go90

If you take a look at the go90 website, one of the things that will immediately surprise you is that all the users that Verizon shows you are young. It quickly becomes clear that this is not your father’s go90 service – Verizon is targeting the modern and attractive youth market.

It seems that Verizon is trying to find ways to appear to the younger audience, who usually don’t pay much attention to Verizon products because they are “boring.” They are entering a crowded market – there is the threat of Snapchat and its onslaught of entertainment and news partners that grows by the day. Verizon product managers have structured the Go90 service as free and ad-supported, like the other social networks. Right now, it’s only available in the US for iOS and Android. Just to make things a little more challenging for Verizon, Comcast has launched its Watchable mobile app that is designed to do many of the same things.

Verizon product managers have a real challenge on their hands with this new service. Verizon has said that the app is aimed at teens and people ages 18 to 34, but the current content line appears to be primarily aimed at teens only. AT&T, Verizon’s main competitor, is trying to find ways to combine its Direct-TV video content with its wireless service as well. In the end, it will all be about content. Verizon product managers will have to find enough content not currently on HBO or Netflix to appeal to the young audience they so crave. Hopefully you can form the partnerships with the content creators that you are going to need.

What does all this mean to you?

As product managers, we all see our product as modern and attractive to the right group of people; that’s part of our product manager’s job description. However, would any of us go so far as to call our product “great”? At Verizon, product managers have launched a new wireless service product they call go90. They want to portray this product as “cool”. Can they do it?

The go90 product is a wireless video streaming service. Users can use it to watch videos, chat with friends, and even trim video parts and send them to their friends. Verizon is rolling out this product for everyone, but making it work even better for its Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is targeting this product at young people. If the product is going to be a success, then they will have to make sure it has the types of content that young people want to see.

Verizon product managers have taken a risky path. Verizon is not known as a “cool” company, so creating and marketing a product that will have to be “cool” to be successful is a challenge. Ultimately, the success of this product will depend on the amount and types of content that Verizon will be able to secure for the service. Simply launching the new service will not be enough to ensure its success, that’s when the real work will begin!