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

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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