Virgin Mobile Director: Social Kills Traditional Sales Funnel

Austin, TX – Virgin Mobile brand director Ron Faris says social media chatter increasingly makes well-worn marketing ideas such as call-to-action obsolete. The traditional sales funnel model, Faris said, “is dead” because of the way digitally native Gen Y and younger consumers have come to think about brands and products.

“They are just as interested in the tweets that come back about a product as they are concerned about price,” he said, speaking with ClickZ at South by Southwest Interactive. “They practically do background checks.”

On Friday, Virgin Mobile unveiled a program aimed at attracting adult consumers under 34 years old. Called “What the App!?”, it will award one Android developer per month with a platform to get his or her app off the ground. Developers can submit ideas to a site, “

Winners will get their apps pushed across the New York-based company’s network of web sites and via Virgin Mobile Android handsets. As the triumphant developers are revealed, they’ll join the judging panel. Crosswa.lk, named Friday as the first winner, offers a product that lets consumers see what apps their friends are using, as well as what apps are trending in the Crosswa.lk network.

While “What the App!?” is a neat program slated to run at least a year, what’s exactly in it for Virgin Mobile? Faris explained the effort is about social media credibility among a consumer set that leans on peer reviews. It will mostly rely on developer community buzz, hopefully spreading from tech-savvy markets like New York and San Francisco to points in between.

“We are trying to be a hyper-connected version of [the consumer’s] friends on Facebook,” he said.

Drawing an analogy to SXSW’s musical tradition, Faris compared app developers to rock stars. Virgin Mobile, he says, wants to get the so-called pop tech culture within its crosshairs.

“We want to own that,” the brand director said. “We want to be about more than products and offers. Over time, they will switch over from T-Mobile [and other wireless competitors].”

The “What the App!?” program is the latest part of Virgin Mobile’s “Higher Caller” campaign, which is receiving a considerable digital and TV push.

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