Strike Benefits: A Verizon on Consumers' Horizon

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When I was shopping for a cell phone a few months ago — an activity rife with commitment fears and much based on unscientific polling of friends and colleagues — the Radio Shack salesperson was pushing hard for a company called Verizon.

Sprint I'd heard of. AT&T. Bell Atlantic, yes. But Verizon?

Sure, it said on the brochure that Verizon was the combination of Bell Atlantic and GTE, among others, both big names in the phone biz. But Verizon sounded like a joint venture that nobody wanted to be too closely associated with, with a swishy name that seemed to belong on an anti-depressant pill. And when you're committing to a cell phone provider, confidence is everything.

Well, after a 15-day strike that led to Verizon spilling off the lips of every CNBC talking head and being splashed all over every business page — always with an explanatory line like the Wall Street Journal's "the result of a marriage between Bell Atlantic and Nynex" — the new moniker has made the big time.

After all, brand is everything, and Verizon Communications' recently ended labor woes may have proved another old capitalist maxim: There's no such thing as bad publicity.

Verizon had launched a national name-awareness campaign just when the strike started. They'd have been better off saving their money; not only did the simultaneous contexts result in a bit of weird dissonance (kind of like Firestone ads last week), but the business-channel free publicity was worth millions on its own.

Soon, prospective customers will have forgotten all about the strike. But they'll probably remember the name. After a while, it might even stop sounding too clever by half.