HTC needs to turn up the volume on its “Quietly Brilliant” strategy


HTC recorded its first quarterly loss in more than two years in the last three months of 2011, a sign that the Taiwanese mobile manufacturer’s growth in the Western market is beginning to wane and its marketing strategy is due a major rethink.

Net profit fell 25% year-on-year in the three months to December, a festive quarter in which most of its rivals were reporting a spike in sales – indeed Samsung is set to report its best ever three months of smartphone sales for that period.

In the UK, HTC still continues to sit near the peak of the UK smartphone market. It is the second biggest-selling smartphone manufacturer, with an 18.5% share of the market, only behind Apple’s dominant 26.2% share, according to comScore data for November.

Worldwide, it is the fourth biggest smartphone maker, according to Thomson Reuters, but consistently solid products and major marketing muscle mean that Samsung and Apple storm the pack.

While HTC is still battling the biggest players of the mobile market for now, analysts are predicting profit for the first quarter of the year is also set to tumble and some commentators are predicting a fall from (albeit shortlived) grace akin to BlackBerry maker RIM.

HTC’s tagline is “quietly brilliant”, two words that completely resonated when the company switched strategy from being a white label manufacturer to becoming the dominant Android manufacturer overnight, with a host of impressive devices running the Google-owned operating system at reasonable prices.

Back in its glory years of 2010 and the early part of 2011, those two words implied “underdog”. Now, with increasing competition from the heavy hitters in the Android ecosystem, that strapline implies “underweight”. HTC needs to move its marketing communications beyond saying “our devices are better than you think they might be” and evolve its strategy into saying “our devices are the best”.

One other major issue is that HTC has lacked a hero product that can bring it back up to the heady days of early 2010 when it launched its game changing Desire.

Since then, HTC has brought out line after line of almost identical phones with far from identifiable names. ChaCha; Salsa; Incredible; Legend; Titan; Rhyme; Sensation; Radar; Explorer; Evo…and these are only some of HTC’s more recent offerings.

HTC seems to be trying to produce too many phones, tackling too many market sectors, offering nothing that differentiates or betters each product from other devices in the market. In other words: quantity over quality.

Would it not be wiser to focus on the few of its most popular and distinctive lines and release subsequent versions of its most compelling products, rather than launching myriad devices that no doubt confuses the consumer. Heck, it seems to be working for Samsung and Apple (at numbers one and two respectively for worldwide smartphone sales).

No doubt this would also give the marketing directors an easier ride; just a handful of lines that each cater for different demographics and therefore have their own brand essence.

Subsequently, at point of purchase, consumers would have a much better idea of the HTC device most tailored towards their needs, rather than opting for something like the Samsung Galaxy S2 and Apple’s iPhone 4S because of their popularity.

With consolidation and a little more confidence in its own success and brand, HTC could make positive moves towards preventing further disappointing financial reports. But, as we’ve already seen with the deterioration of Nokia and RIM, the mobile industry is fast-paced and HTC must move quickly; it can’t wait to evolve, it must bring about its own marketing revolution.

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