The first example of HTC’s more purposeful marketing approach was the launch of a “Power to Give” app at Mobile World Congress. The app harnesses the unused processing power in Android smartphones – not just HTC devices – to create a global supercomputer to support research in fields such as searching for extra terrestrial life, studies into cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and ensuring children have clean drinking water.
The app runs while a user’s smartphone is plugged in and connected to a WiFi network and will initially only be compatible with three HTC phones but the company looks to make the app more widely available in six months time.
Speaking to Marketing Week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Naughton, said: “We are investing in marketing talent to create different marketing that is not mainstream because we want people to understand the brand as well as the product.
“One of the reasons Power to Give is fundamental to us is because we know smartphones can change the world. You will hear more about our purpose and us talking about the wider connected world going forward.”
HTC has an advantage over rivals such as Samsung and LG because it is only in the business of selling smartphones rather than also selling fridges and washing machines and so on, which allows the brand to maintain focus, Naughton said.
She added: “We know this is a big category but when you think about brands like Converse and Ray Ban that are very clear about what they stand for, (that’s where we want to be).”
Naughton said part of the more purposeful approach will also include a heavier leaning towards what she claimed was the brand’s design strengths.
She added: “The big umbrella thing that consumers love about HTC is design and you will start to see us show that design DNA at the core of what we do in marketing because consumers respect us the most for that.
“We will talk a lot more about the way our product feels in and out and our innovations in design. I talk about Boomsound (which has seen HTC put two Beats speakers on the front rather than back of the HTC One device – as like asking why did people did not first put wheels on luggage? It seems so obvious.”
Design will become the “moment of truth” in HTC’s products, Naughton said, which will be demonstrated on 25 March when HTC announces its new flagship products. The company is also developing a smartwatch it expects to bring to market by Christmas.
The new marketing strategy follows a reported $1bn brand campaign starring Ironman actor Robert Downey Jr.
Naughton said brand tracking data has shown the campaign has made consumers feel HTC is a brand that fits their lives and that it helped addressed its challenge of reaching female consumers, largely thanks to Downey Jr’s involvement.
The campaign had been criticised by some areas of the technology press and consumers for its wacky element, but Naughton said positive chatter about the ads outweighed negative feed back by two to one and that the “brave” move helped raise the profile of the brand significantly.
HTC launched two new mid-tier smartphones at Mobile World Congress this week: the Desire 816 and Desire 610, which the company’s CEO John Chen said would unlock the “huge opportunity in the middle of the market”.
Earlier this month HTC said a focus on “mid and affordable” handsets and “aggressive marketing” would help it return to profit in 2014. The Taiwanese smartphone maker forecast a wider than expected net loss of between 860 million Taiwanese dollars and 3.11 billion Taiwanese dollars for the first quarter of 2014.