HTC may not be a household name, but it’s definitely showing up in a lot more households lately. The Taiwanese company claimed 5.1 percent of the world smartphone market in the first quarter, up from 4.2 percent for the same period in 2009, per Canalys. With strong sales for its HTC Incredible via Verizon and its HTC Hero from Sprint, second-quarter results are likely to be strong as well. Next month, HTC also plans to launch a large ad campaign supporting EVO, the first 4G phone in the U.S. market, via Sprint. Jon Maron, a former marketing exec at LG and Sony Ericsson, said he’s encouraged by the results from HTC’s first ad campaign. That work, themed “It’s You” and produced by Deutsch, put a human element behind HTC’s formerly faceless image. Brandweek spoke with Maron about how HTC is developing. Below are some excerpts.
Brandweek: Mobile handsets seems like a category where the product kind of sells itself. Why advertise?
Jon Maron: It’s not so much that the product sells itself. It’s great to have a great product, and a really bad product—no matter how much advertising you do—it’s not going to help. Specifically around cell phones, the product comes off as kind of cold, but our advertising was developed around the “It’s You” campaign, to put a human component back into the brand. You’ve seen our tagline, “Quietly brilliant.” It’s a philosophy at HTC and around all of our products that we put you at the center. And in doing that, it’s definitely a change from the typical “Don’t you want to buy it cause it looks pretty on the shelf” approach. There’s a real emotional connection to the brand. In fact, we think about our products as being so individualized and so unique that we have a philosophy that they’re not complete until they’re injected with the DNA of their owner.
BW: What do you mean by that?
JM: Unlike some of our competitors where every device looks and feels the same, every one of our devices allows customers to customize every single aspect of the device, not only from how it looks but also to how it interacts with them on a daily basis.
BW: What’s the response been to the campaign? Have you seen a lot of uptick in awareness and other markers of success?
JM: Absolutely. So not only has brand awareness gone up substantially—though I’m hesitant to tell you any specific kinds of numbers because it’s only been six months and six months in the brand world is not particularly significant—but we have also seen a huge uptick in our brand awareness and our recommendation rate.
BW: What’s your social media strategy?
JM: What we’re finding is that by doing takeovers on Yahoo and doing all the kinds of normal blocking and tackling on the Web that those things are not only panning out, but people are also looking for htc.com. We’ve seen hits to our Web site grow nearly seven or eight times in the past few months.
BW: Will you do a lot of advertising for EVO and 4G?
JM: Absolutely. It’s not only a great technology statement for Sprint, but it’s also a huge technology statement for HTC.
BW: Do you think most consumers will understand what 4G is, or will you have to do a lot of education?
JM: I think that the way the campaign is set up, which is “What can 4G do for you?,” plays off the same emotional benefits of putting you in the center of everything we do. So we’re not talking about technology in the sense of speeds and feeds, which we could easily do with 4G, but we’re putting the customer at the center and figuring out the best way to talk to that customer. So when we worked with Sprint on an ad campaign, we really looked at what does “Quietly brilliant” mean and how can you explain cold, hard technology. So we looked at how to put the customer at the center. But more importantly, we looked at how consumers can go online or watch the ads and understand 4G immediately. We looked at what were some of the surprises you get when you have a 4G device. When you get your hands on an EVO 4G, what will surprise you? What will make you go, “Wow!”?