Jennifer Lopez Dials Up Latin Cell

New Viva Movil chain is turning to Lopez to attract Hispanic consumers to Verizon's network.

Celebrities are known for striking rich licensing deals to launch their own clothing, headphone or perfume businesses. But Jennifer Lopez is taking her entrepreneurial interests a step further to open a new brand of cell phone stores — Viva Movil — that will target Latinos.

Lopez plans to open the chain of 15 stores, beginning with an outlet in New York on June 15, followed by Los Angeles and Miami, that will sell Verizon phones and services as an authorized reseller. Company won’t focus on low-cost, no contract services, a strategy that didn’t work for Movida Communications, which went bankrupt in 2008 and targeted Spanish speakers in the U.S.

Each Viva Movil outlet will provide a “culturally relevant shopping experience” to Latinos and hire a bilingual staff. Stores will feature contemporary signage and branding, music and layout, as well as a a children’s play area to appeal to the demo.

A separate Facebook page will provide consumers with personalized recommendations, enable them to shop with their friends, comment on devices and share what device or accessory they purchased. The site and GetViva.com already have launched.

“As modern Latinos we do things differently, including how we shop for mobile devices,” Lopez said in a press conference from the CTIA Wireless Show, in Las Vegas, on Wednesday. “Latinos love social networks and we’re super active online,” referring to how Latinos spend an average of 1.5 more hours online than non-Latino consumers, and are more likely to share their online purchases with friends on their social networks.

Lopez isn’t just lending her name; she will serve as chief creative officer of Viva Movil and be a majority owner in the brand. Deal follows a recent move to also become chief creative officer at Nuvo TV, an English language TV network for Latinos.

By reaching out to Hispanic Americans through Lopez, Verizon is able to bring the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. into its network as it looks for ways to compete with rivals like AT&T and T-Mobile.

An estimated 75% of Latinos in the U.S. own smartphones, more than the 63% of Americans who own the devices, on average, according to Nielsen.

Verizon wound up brokering the deal with Lopez after identifying how Hispanic consumers identify with her and measuring her “likabiliyt, authenticity and transparency” when compared with Verizon brand.

Viva Movil has been in the works since January, when Verizon turned to Jeetendr Sehdev, VP of planning at branding agency Walton Isaacson, to help position a new brand that was developed specifically for the Hispanic community.

At the time, Lopez already had signed on as a celebrity partner and investor in the new business, agreeing to become the face of what eventually became Viva Movil. She also speaks to that audience through endorsement deals made with Fiat, Gucci, Venus and L’Oreal.

The Viva Movil stores are managed by Brightstar, a global distribution and services company, and Moorehead Communications, Verizon Wireless’ largest premium retailer.

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