LAS VEGAS -- Jennifer Lopez and Verizon Wireless made a little noise on Wednesday after they unveiled a partnership to create a Latino-centric shopping experience.
Viva Movil is, for the most part, an extension of Verizon's retail arm, and will sell Verizon phones and service plans. Core services such as customer care will continue to be handled by Verizon. This particular retail arm just happens to have actress-singer Lopez as the face of the brand.
Lopez is a self-described "mobile neophyte," and it shows. But she appears passionate about going after the Latino market with a shopping experience that is catered to that demographic.
The Viva Movil announcement was not what many industry observers and pundits were looking for -- many had been anticipating (or wishing) the announcement of the Verizon HTC One. Some are chalking it up to a simple wireless reseller, but the model is slightly different with Verizon's name, products, and services attached to the shopping experience.
Still, at a dead quiet CTIA Wireless show, Verizon and JLo hogged up much of the media attention.
Lopez and Verizon Wireless Chief Operating Officer Marni Walden sat down with CNET to answer a few questions about Viva, the Latin market, and yes, the HTC One. The following is an edited Q&A.
Q: How did this partnership start?
Walden: Marcelo (Claure, the CEO of Brightstar,) was the catalyst. He ran the idea by us and ran it by Jennifer and we got together for lunch one day. I wanted to make sure we were both passionate about the same thing. It's not just about opening a store, it's about opening an experience.
Were you looking to better target the Hispanic market?
Walden: So we definitely were. We have options for customers today, and we'll continue to do those things. When you look at the pure market opportunity -- 52 million Latinos in America -- we just weren't getting enough of that business. We wanted to create another experience that was unique, that was relevant. We saw the market growth and the opportunity to deliver on that experience.
The tech savvy-ness of the Latino community is huge. You look at whether it's digital, social media, or adoption of tablets and smartphones, the Latino community over-indexes in every single of one of those. Then you look at the growing population -- 10 years younger than the average population. You have 18-to-35-year-olds coming into the tech space. It's critical we address that.
Lopez: It's just a point in time where people are realizing they have to cater to this market, and that it's not something you can just hope they show up for whatever you do, but that it's actually become important enough and there's enough spending power to go, "Wait a minute, what do they like? What do they want to do? What do they need? How do they shop?"
You're talking about a bicultural population who we call the modern Latino. They're very much rooted in their Latino culture, and there are certain idiosyncrasies to those people. When we all sat down, we started talking about those things. There's just certain things I get because I am one of those people, that maybe other people don't get. I think being in the entertainment business and that combined with building my own brand and being who I am, I come at it from a creative perspective that's a little bit different.
So I sit down with Verizon who's this huge corporation with all this information, and I go wait a minute, how about the fact that we like to shop with our kids? It's simple things that make a huge difference. When you get together with certain partners, there's a chemistry that happens. Together, we can crack this nut. People have been trying to do, I know, because people have approached me over the years for so many different businesses. How do we get Latinos? It's not as easy as you think.
The Latino market is linked to prepaid wireless service. Are you targeting a different kind of customer?
Walden: There are more similarities between postpaid and prepaid. We will still offer prepaid and postpaid in stores. It's really about this idea that we could be relevant and create this total customer experience. It's more than just the network. We want to deliver on this complete customer experience.
How does Viva make money?
Lopez: When people come into the store...we created this omnichannel--
Walden: Moorehead is our largest premium retailer. They will be running the stores. The same traditional premium retailer models we have today apply, you just have three different owners invested in the company [Lopez owns a majority stake in Viva, which is jointly owned by Moorehead and Brightstar. Verizon does not own a stake in the business.]
How does that work? Do you get a cut of each customer that gets signed up?
Lopez: We're not going to answer that.
Walden: You should think about it as a traditional retail model, like Best Buy or any place else.
However, the most important thing is it's got this omnichannel (a reference to its ability to sell products and services through traditional stores, the Internet, smartphones, and social networks such as Facebook) which we really haven't done with anyone else. That makes it different.
Lopez: And it does have exclusivity.
How do you feel Hispanics are represented in the technology world?
Lopez: I think in general, we wield this great consumer power. It wasn't something that people were taking care of or really, really targeted.
Walden: That's the buying power of one of the top 20 countries, so it's a huge opportunity.
What phone do you use?
Lopez: A BlackBerry.
What kind of a BlackBerry?
Lopez: A Verizon BlackBerry. [Everyone laughs, but Lopez isn't sure.]
I got a lot of comments disappointed this wasn't the HTC One announcement.
Lopez: What does that mean? HTC One? I'm so sorry.
It's a phone. So, are you going to be selling the HTC One?
Walden: I'll tell you if we know (laughs).
So, "American Idol," are you ever going back?
PR representative: Interview's over.