Verizon rejects 'bombastic' competitors in favor of emotion in Super Bowl commercial

Marques Colston kisses the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Chris Graythen | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

When you ask people about phone or internet providers, they are often unable to distinguish between them, according to Verizon's Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President Diego Scotti.

"When you talk to consumers about this category, everybody's like 'Well you know in this category everybody is the same.' … No, not everybody's the same, so the point about differentiation as a measure of success for us, is really key," he told CNBC by phone.

Scotti is discussing the company's 2019 Super Bowl ad campaign, an evolution of its 2018 series of commercials thanking first responders — the point being that two-thirds of those responders use Verizon to communicate.

And while some competitors might use "bombastic" techniques to promote themselves (see T-Mobile's magenta-clad Chief Executive John Legere), Scotti's theory is that playing on people's heartstrings will make them think more warmly of the brand, and buy from it.

"We are a brand in a category that, you know, is all about who you know screams louder and is more bombastic. We want to create an emotional connection with our customers ... And also, that translates into business," he said.

Verizon is going through a period of change in the fiercely competitive telecommunications industry, with new CEO Hans Vestberg announcing a reorganization in November that created a media group, a consumer unit and a business segment. Verizon is going hard on its 5G services, attacking rival AT&T's 5G claims in full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today last week.

The company will continue talking about 5G around the Super Bowl this year but its main push is a campaign called "The Team that Wouldn't Be Here," featuring the stories of 12 NFL stars who were involved in incidents where they were saved by first responders. A 60-second ad will launch during Sunday's AFC and NFC games, with a documentary created by "Friday Night Lights" producer Peter Berg to run during the big game itself on February 3.

For Scotti, the ad is a tribute to those who serve others. "40,000 people in America every year wouldn't be here if it wasn't for first responders … And in general marketing and brands, those stories are not being told … I just call this a real indication of, or a salute to those people who serve and they deserve the highest the highest respect from all of us."

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Verizon attacked AT&T's 5G claims in full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today last week.