When Verizon launched the Droid, I was a bit puzzled. They came up with a brand name for a phone, which was built by Motorola. And picked a brand from the past, for which they have to pay royalties to George Lucas...
Today, I see the genius in that campaign. They are now launching more Droids, built by different device manufacturers (from HTC, for example). Reading this article, it even seems that - in the US - consumers know what Droid is, but have no idea what Android is... Part of the success of the brand is actually that it existed in the past, and it is linked to a geek phenomenon (one I will never understand, I might be the only geek in world who does not like sci-fi). I am not sure they would have been so successful, had they invented a new brand.
Why is it genius? Because the carriers are progressively being made irrelevant by device manufacturers. You buy an iPhone, not a phone from AT&T (actually, you even wish you could have it on a different carrier...). You buy a BlackBerry. You buy a Windows Mobile (really, are you sure?). You do not buy anything which is carrier specific.
Instead, now you want a Droid. A device from Verizon. Actually, not one device, a set of devices. By different manufacturers, which disappear in the marketing campaign. Yes, there is Motorola somewhere on the billboard, and also Google. But it is The Verizon Phone. The Droid.
There are a lot of Android phones, and some are way better than the original Droid. But the number of Droids sold is unbelievable. If Android is where it is, it is because of Verizon and the Droid (and the need for an answer to the iPhone, and the AT&T network sucking). The marketing campaign was an outstanding success. A carrier making the device manufacturer irrelevant.
Bottom line: the carriers have tried in the past to remove the manufacturers from the equation and have failed. The brands that count today are the device ones. With the Droid, Verizon has been able to turn the table around.
Apple would call this move "magical". Or "genius". I agree.