ZTE aims to become “underground”, “cool” brand

Chinese mobile manufacturer ZTE, the world’s fourth biggest handset maker by volume, is preparing a major push to grab a slice of the UK market by positioning as an “underground”, “cool” brand that opens up the mobile internet to all.

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The company, which up until recently had only sold white label devices, has launched three own-brand, youth-focussed smartphones in the UK in a bid to build its share of the handset market in the territory.

The company is currently working with distributor Brightpoint, to stock its Skate, Libra and Tureis smartphones in retailers in the UK such as Amazon, although it is also hoping to build a high street presence.

About four million ZTE mobile devices were shipped to the UK in 2010, although these were white label products. The company hopes to have sold a similar amount by the end of 2011 with a considerably higher proportion being own-label.

Wu Sa, ZTE’s UK director of mobile device operations, says the UK is a key growth market for its consumer own-brand because it is on the “leading edge of the mobile user experience evolution”.

The company is looking open up mobile internet use, which Sa adds is currently restricted to those of a certain socio-economic category, by selling cheaper smartphones than rivals such as Apple and Samsung.

ZTE’s current UK marketing campaign features London rapper Professor Green, who topped the singles chart last week, and the company is also the headline sponsor of his forthcoming UK tour.

Sheila Wang, UK marketing communications director, says that Professor Green’s recent success reflects how ZTE wants to be perceived in the UK market.

“Professor Green moved into the mainstream from the underground and we’re in a similar position. Both our audiences are young, cool, connected and media savvy,” she says.

ZTE overtook Apple to become the world’s fourth biggest handset maker by volume in the third quarter of 2011, according to Strategy Analytics. The company increased handset shipments by 57.9% in the three months to 30 September to take a 4.9% global market share.

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