Droid vs Android: How Big Of A Difference Can 2 Letters Make?

Posted: July 12, 2010 in Advertising/Marketing, Business, Technology
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Droid™ vs. Android – Examining The Nuances of SmartPhone Marketing

They are often used interchangeably when referring to ever-growing & increasingly popular line of smartphones that run on Google technology. The difference, for most purposes, is one of legal definitions and intellectual property. Android simply refers to the operating system and software that powers phones built by any of number manufacturers, including HTC or Motorola, and that run on any of the major carriers.

Droid, on the other hand, is a term coined and owned by LucasFilm Ltd., the licensing rights for which Verizon had to purchase in order to brand their specific line of Android Smartphones.

You’d think the difference ends there, but those two little letters have had a much bigger impact that one might predict.

Now, what this essentially boils down to is how Verizon markets Google smartphones versus how every other carrier does, might, would, or should.

Just for comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at the Sprint HTC EVO 4G & HTC Incredible TV spots and the new & Droid X teaser for good measure.

What’s the difference? In my eyes, Sprint is trying to say too much, and to the wrong audience: Tell a story, tout 4G, claim market primacy, compel viewers to think “what could I do with 4G,” with their multiple calls to action. Oh and the phone has a kickstand…

I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible spot. What is it then? A traditional broadcast commercial promoting a very nontraditional piece of technology to an anti-traditional audience.

The consumer they’re trying to reach (or should be) doesn’t care about narratives. The audience that buys first-to-market smartphones, that understands “4G,” either already knows the EVO basics or can read about them online. In that respect, the messaging is (potentially) redundant. They spent money on that air time and could have created something bigger, rather than list the features of their phone.

Verizon got that (or their agency did). The commercial is thus about creating a brand, one built around a single defining concept idea – DOING (or ‘does’). Because they know their audience and their audience doesn’t care how pretty an iPhone is that can’t multitask or support USB, or if EVO’s run on a new and almost nonexistent 4G network.

And Note – Verizon’s tactics transcend manufacturer. The execution for the HTC Incredible is strategically aligned with that of the Motorola Droid X. That’s what building a brand is all about people.

So, where does this leave the other carriers? Should they emulate Verizon and try to build their own proprietary brand around Google technology, or is it too late for that? Do you disagree and think their spot would have been more successful if the phone itself wasn’t such a dud?


I used to work for the agency that represented, until recently, Verizon Wireless. I won’t go into the gory details of the McCann – Verizon – McGarry-Bowen situation, mostly because I don’t know them and don’t care to. I did, however, out of respect for my former employer, refrain from posting this until after I left (today being my first day at Advertising Age).

Disclaimer 2:

Any Thoughts Contained In This Blog, In Any Post, Are My Own, And Do Not Reflect Any Employer, Current, Past, or Future.

  1. Vanessa says:

    Great article. I actually like the Sprint ad, which is rather beautiful. And I LOVE my HTC Hero, despite its bogus screen-touch keypad. 🙂 Congrats you!

    • Aerocles says:

      Thanks & Thanks!!! No Argument That The Sprint Ad Is Aesthetically Pleasing, I Just Don’t Think It Does A Good Job At Selling The Phone…

  2. […] Femininity without looking stupid. Oooorrr, maybe it’s just me. Anyway, here’s a quick post that explains […]

  3. Tonya says:

    So I’m finally at my “upgrade” point on cell phones, and I’d like to point out on fatal flaw in Verizons marketing scheme. I’ve know since Android came out that it was not carrier specific. So when I see “Droid” commercials, I assume that I can get what they are showing at any carrier. Which is what I will do, I’ve been a Sprint customer for years because they have the best rate plans, and I will go in soon and pick out one of the Android phones from there. I wont switch to Verizon for a “Droid”, just like I wouldn’t switch to AT&T for an iPhone.

  4. Rich says:

    So it’s 1/2 year since your wrote this explanation, a lot has changed, and I have reached the upgrade, not in contract point, on two Rim 9000 phones. This spring a number of android phones are rolling out. The choices are many and it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. I have had 6 plus Blackberry devices (lost count) but Rim just doesn’t do it anymore. I have been using ATT because of the coverage in San Felipe, Baja, Mexico – Viva Mexico Plan. I started with a Pac-Bell Brick phone in the mid 80’s, then Cingular bought Pac-Bell, then ATT bought Cingular. A quarter Century of loyalty, but is over. An upgrade of Rim software disabled a Bold 9000 and over 3 hours online with tech support , a physical trip to a TECH support center produced no results, except I am eligible for an upgrade. BFD (The phone can’t find the ATT network) . Recent reports indicate ATT only added 400,000 “new” customers, but that doesn’t say how many they lost. (My recent service experience may be a clue as to why ATT & RIM are losing it). So here’s my question – 6 months after you wrote this, which Android phone now or shortly will do the business things of a Rim device and also has the “REAL” coverage features for North America? One other thing the phone also has the Ham radio Echo link connection application feature? Rich

  5. […] affiliation with Google themselves. Android runs on various other phones, devices and carriers. Verizon was able to effectively market its flagship smartphone to unassuming consumers who didn’t separate the distinction between Droid the product and Android […]

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