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New marketing chief plans aggressive push for revival

Android smartphone maker HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) became the darling of the U.S. market via an aggressive reputation in 2010-2011 of pushing the hardware envelope.  But in 2012 it saw itself start to backslide as it became overwhelmed by fellow Android phonemaker Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930) savvy marketing machine and delivered a handful of decent, yet uninspired releases (e.g. the HTC EVO 3D).  Apple, Inc. (AAPL) also surged ahead of HTC both in brand image and sales.

I. Getting Aggressive

Now vying for third place, HTC is determined to push harder on the hardware side with devices like the HTC One.  And while a buyer snub has delayed the HTC One, HTC plans to get more aggressive in the months leading up to whenever the device does get launched, shifting gears from its previous policy of friendly competition to an increasingly common policy of open belligerence.

Negativity works.  The market's top phonemaker Samsung reveled in a series of ads attacking Apple's "fanboys" (and girls).  Apple -- while keeping it pretty positive with iPhone advertising -- for years built its image of superiority by ripping on the "PC" brand, which it labeled as stodgy and uncool.

Samsung and Apple attack ads
Samsung (left) and Apple (right) road attack ads on their way to the top.

For HTC, getting negative begins with ditching the company's slogan -- "Quietly Brilliant".  HTC has not announced a replacement slogan, but based on recent efforts, the new feel is a lot like that of Apple and Samsung -- "Noisily Belligerent".

Pushing the change is new Chief Marketing Officer Benjamin Ho who joined HTC in November and started work in January.  One Asia's most savvy veteran marketers, Mr. Ho had previously served at a variety of Asian telecoms and the Asian unit of phonemaker Motorola, back in its dominant days in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Mr. Ho left Motorola in 2003, well before it joined up with Android or got acquired by Google Inc. (GOOG).

HTC Benjamin Ho
Benjamin Ho (left) is boldly overhauling HTC's marketing and message.
[Image Source: MarketWeek]

Mr. Ho is not afraid to bluntly address issues.  Responding to rumors of the HTC One delay, he told members of the press, "Our friends in the media have been asking why there has been a delay in shipments for the new HTC One, whether there is a component shortage.  There is some shortage, because the phone’s camera was designed specifically for us, and production cannot be ramped up so quickly."

II. Benjamin Ho Leads Marketing Revival at HTC

He's sold the company management on deeply investing on better marketing -- or "Marketing 2.0" as he calls it.  This year HTC will double its traditional media advertising spending and increase digital advertising by a factor of 3.5x.  The move is carefully calculated by Mr. Ho to assault Samsung and Apple's industry-leading brand familiarity among non-technophiles.  It also represents a sharp reversal of HTC's previous plan to cut marketing spending in 2013, which it told investors in late 2012.

HTC quietly brilliant
HTC is no longer content to be "quiet". [Image Source: Reuters]

The fresh face is HTC's third CMO in two years, but Mr. Ho doesn't appear to be intimidated by lack of job security.  He comments on the decision to ditch the company's long-standing slogan, "We have a lot of innovations but we haven’t been loud enough."

HTC was certainly loud in attacking rival Samsung's Galaxy S IV launch on Twitter. Outside the launch location in New York City HTC made a scene handing out free hot chocolate and giving demos and discount coupons for the HTC One.

Thus far Mr. Ho's plan for marketing the HTC One won't focus on any one slogan, but rather to focus on general buzzwords -- "bold", "authentic", and "playful".  Mr. Ho says that "authentic" means that HTC is pushing its own ideas and not copy other phonemakers.  

The comment is perhaps a subtle insult to rival Samsung who lost a billion-dollar jury verdict after a U.S. jury found that it "stole" patented technology and designs from Apple.  HTC recently entered into a 10-year deal to license certain technology from Apple, ending its own patent battle with the U.S. firm.

Source: WSJ

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RE: It's not just HTC
By Reclaimer77 on 3/25/2013 7:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
Fun fact, there was no such thing on Earth as a non-pentile 720p screen when the GS3 launched.

RE: It's not just HTC
By ChronoReverse on 3/25/2013 7:17:11 PM , Rating: 2
You mean non-pentile 720p AMOLED screen I hope?

The One X predated the GS3 slightly and it featured a 720p non-pentile LCD.

Then there's the Rezound which featured a 720p LCD and came out half a year before the GS3.

RE: It's not just HTC
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/25/2013 7:27:20 PM , Rating: 2
The GS3 had one of the worst screens when it came out. The One X is a great example, very high res and great color. Even lower res screens like the iPhone 4S had more subpixels than the "higher res" GS3. A "720p" GS3 with the worst color and contrast out there, oh wow.

Samsung marketing wins again.

At least the GS4 is 440 PPI. Even if its Pentile it probably won't even matter. Now we'll see if Samsung can fix their color next.

RE: It's not just HTC
By ChronoReverse on 3/25/2013 7:46:10 PM , Rating: 2
The non-pentile AMOLED screen in the Note 2 actually has good color if you switch its mode (in the stock ROM, I'm not talking custom ROMs) to "Natural".

RE: It's not just HTC
By Reclaimer77 on 3/25/2013 8:40:36 PM , Rating: 2
The display on the Note 2 is just freaking fantastic I must say. I always make excuses to use my friends when we hang out, it's just so goddamn gorgeous.

RE: It's not just HTC
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/25/2013 9:43:46 PM , Rating: 2
The Note 2 being non-pentile is a huge reason why it looks as good as it does. It really couldn't get away with it at its lower pixel density, but even then it looks better than a higher PPI pentile display.

RE: It's not just HTC
By Reclaimer77 on 3/25/2013 8:05:08 PM , Rating: 2
Even professional grade displays have to be calibrated out of the box. I guess those are crap too?

I happen to like the vibrant colors of the older Samsung handsets. So do millions of others. However don't ignorantly boast this makes the screen "the worst", it's just software. And I know you'll cry "oh no, tinkering!!", but you can go into a menu and change the color scheme to something less saturated if you want. What a concept right!?

AMOLED technology is far FAR superior technically to LCD. LCD is an obsolete technology that quite frankly should be phased out at this point.

Samsung marketing wins again.

Okay I'm seeing more and more this odd HTC vs Samsung argument being used here. Where the suggestion is made that marketing is the only reason someone would buy a Samsung unit over an HTC. Reality check time, the Galaxy S3 destroys the One X in every performance metric and has more features.

RE: It's not just HTC
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/25/2013 9:33:21 PM , Rating: 2
Even professional grade displays have to be calibrated out of the box. I guess those are crap too?

Doesn't matter, consistency from factory calibration is still there. What excuse is there for the HTC and Apple smartphones having so much better image quality than Samsung?

You can take a high end desktop LCD, or a good smartphone or tablet and still get very good color. The HTC One and the iPhone 5 nail it because they're factory calibrated. Samsung's oversaturated and overly contrasty settings are terrible. It consistently ranks among the worst smartphone displays out there and the difference is obvious even in a store. I don't know why you insist on defending it.

AMOLED technology is far FAR superior technically to LCD. LCD is an obsolete technology that quite frankly should be phased out at this point.

Samsung's Super AMOLED implementation is among the worst thanks to having fewer subpixels. The Pentile array is terrible, its rendering of fine details and small text is so obvious.

HTC and LG have switched back from AMOLED to IPS LCD because aside from IPS having longer lifespan, it is an objective improvement in sharpness, color, and image quality.

Reality check time, the Galaxy S3 destroys the One X in every performance metric and has more features.

The One X is also an older phone. Surprise.

RE: It's not just HTC
By EnzoFX on 3/26/2013 12:43:50 AM , Rating: 2
Because he's a Samsung fanboy, obviously. He doesn't understand that it doesn't come down to the technical superior specification of AMOLED, when in practice it's being used in a sub par way, so sub par that the "inferior" LCD's are out performing it consistently on accuracy. I don't care how much you like dark blacks, the oversaturation is ludicrous.

RE: It's not just HTC
By Reclaimer77 on 3/26/2013 2:08:35 PM , Rating: 2
Hey do you do color editing or Photoshop on your goddamn phone? Nobody does, this argument is childish. There's so many more important factors in picking a phone.

Just understand you're in the minority here.

RE: It's not just HTC
By blue_urban_sky on 3/26/2013 3:50:45 AM , Rating: 2
Why do you suppose the S3 is over saturated? when there is a perfectly good switch to change it? None of these things happen by accident, they use market research, AB testing and alike. Bright vivid colour and deep blacks sell better.

I would love to see you in a phone shop with your reference cards, pressing all the phones against your eye complaining how you will never be able to do your DTP on such a poorly calibrated fuzzy screen.

RE: It's not just HTC
By piroroadkill on 3/26/2013 11:31:16 AM , Rating: 3
AMOLED better than LCD? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha

God no. I have a Super AMOLED phone, and I wish it was LCD.

It gains a tint over time as the portions degrade.

It's awful.

RE: It's not just HTC
By retrospooty on 3/26/2013 11:36:57 AM , Rating: 2
Its a matter of choice. For true color correctness, LCD rules... But AMOLED has better black levels and brighter more vibrant colors. It depends on what you want from your screen. For artists, and photographers, and anyone else that cares about "true color" LCD, definitely.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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