HTC switches from mass market to youth to boost One

HTC will not spend big like some of its competitors in the launch campaign for its new flagship One device but will instead focus on trying to build preference for its brand amongst younger consumers with a series of media firsts it hopes will make it ‘own’ the youth ‘conversation’.

The new HTC One phone.
The new HTC One phone.

HTC is hoping the new One will reverse several consecutive quarters of revenue decline after coming under increasing competition from Android running high-end handset rivals.

It hopes its “Blink Feed” homescreen, which constantly updates with content from media partners and social networks, will help it stand out from the rest of the market. Other points of differentiation include “Boomsound”, Beats front-facing speakers with built-in amp, and a tool called “Zoe”, which captures images from videos a user makes and can automatically convert photo albums into music videos to share with friends.

While HTC will be spending more on the new One that any other product launch campaign, it is hoping efficient media buys and maximizing the use of its existing assets – such as the sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League and MOBO Awards – will help it reach an audience that is young in mindset and “is not so commanded by brand and can make their own decisions”, according to James Atkins, UK and Ireland marketing director.

Atkins told Marketing Week at the launch of the handset in London yesterday (19 February) making the decision to target a focused group rather than a blanket campaign is the best way for the brand to cut through in the busy marketplace.

He adds: “We are not going to be going head to head with some of those other brands in terms of our marketing spend. This is not about the big broad brush campaigns that mobile phone companies have done for the last 10 years and making the world HTC green. That’s not where we want to be.”

HTC chose to target a younger demographic based on learnings from the One X handset it launched last year, of which 60 per cent of owners are under 35-years-old.

All of HTC’s brand perception measures among under 35s – including impression, quality, value, reputation, satisfaction, buzz and recommendation – have all dropped significantly in the past 12 months, according to YouGov’s Brand Index. Its Index ranking, the measure of all the scores, fell 2.2 points year on year. HTC is behind rivals Nokia, Apple, Sony, LG and Samsung in the ranking list.

Atkins says the possible audience that will use the phone to the best of its ability is “finite” so the company is focusing more on building preference among that target audience rather than boosting market share. HTC is the fourth biggest smartphone maker in the UK in terms of market share, behind RIM, Samsung and Apple, according to comScore.

Media buying, led by M2M in the UK will reflect the three pillars of the phone – Blink, Boomsound and Zoe – and Atkins says there will be several “media firsts” as part of the campaign.

Examples include linking TV adds to mobiles to reflect the second screen trend harnessed by its target audience and encouraging consumers to trial its Boomsound technology by downloading a track to take into store to compare their phone’s sound with the HTC.

HTC will also use social media to “own the conversation” around its sponsorship assets, which it will continue through TV ad breaks, during Champions League games for example.

Atkins says: “We are changing the way we talk and being more bold and playful. We won’t be sensationalist – this isn’t about screaming loudly – but we should not be afraid to say that we are the best and that we have the authority to talk about these things.”

Further above the line activity, which will be a global campaign led by its Taiwan HQ, has not yet been revealed, but it is understood to continue with HTC’s “Quietly Brilliant” strapline it has used since 2009.

HTC promoted its senior Asia Pacific marketer Benjamin Ho to become CMO in November to overhaul the company’s marketing strategy, known internally as “marketing 2.0”, to focus brand building efforts on “holistic marketing and mass-market brand outreach”.