Just six months into the job, Jon French, HTC’s UK and Ireland country manager, has hit the ground running, launching HTC’s biggest rebranding and ad campaign ever and announcing the handset manufacturer’s expansion into Ireland this week.
The ad and branding campaign kicked off in style last Sunday (25 October), landing its first TV slot during half time of the Liverpool vs Manchester United Premier League match on Sky Sports. Its glossy, high profile advertising spectacle was watched by an estimated seven million viewers.
Meanwhile, HTC’s move into Ireland sees the firm tying up with Irish operator Meteor to sell its Hero device and with Vodafone – Eire’s biggest operator – to supply HTC’s Tattoo handset.
Both developments see French soundly meeting the brief given to him when he moved over from Samsung in May 2009 – to build HTC’s brand and market share in the UK and Ireland.
French tells Mobile: ‘This is the biggest rebranding and ad campaign in HTC’s history. It is massive.’ Declining to reveal the total cost, French says: ‘Let’s just say it is six times more than any budget we have spent before on branding.’
The campaign, underlined by the tag ‘HTC – quietly brilliant’, will hit the Christmas surge, building to a crescendo in November and running through until mid December. It will be displayed on TV, billboards and six sheets, and be carried over into shopping malls and online. Running parallel to the campaign will be a major push on HTC devices at point of sale.
French says: ‘Our Q4 strategy is to drive footfall to our point of sale with fantastic demonstrations of live products and by getting staff to personally use the devices so that they can convey their excitement to the end user.’ To this end, HTC has beefed up its training teams by 25% and also plans to promote its devices via Facebook and Twitter.
The campaign will centre on HTC’s Hero and Tattoo handset offerings as well as the new HD2 device, due to be launched later this month. French says its key target is to raise the profile of HTC’s own brand devices as well as seize market share from its competitors.
‘It’s a bold move but it is the right time,’ says French. ‘We genuinely believe we have a strong portfolio to take market share off a number of competitors, but we are not necessarily targeting the competition or devices. We are trying to cut through that and to be very different in the market place with innovative products like the Hero. There is no other product like it. It has really shaken up the market.’
French asserts that the campaign’s focus on devices using Android and Microsoft operating systems answers claims that HTC is neglecting
its Windows Mobile handset range in favour of its Android based handsets.
The HD2 runs on Windows Mobile 6.5 while the Tattoo and Hero both run on Google Android.
‘We are committed to both operating systems, which are very different. Our
USP is what we do with them – the way we develop on top of these platforms.
This is driven by our belief that we must put the user experience at the heart of the device, creating an experience where the technology moulds around what the user wants to do.’
The manufacturer is also looking at other platforms with a view to expanding its offering.
French says: ‘There is nothing I can talk about yet, but we are constantly looking at different platforms.’
French also remains cryptic regarding rumours that HTC could be making Google’s first branded phones in the not too distant future. ‘Not as far as I am aware,’ he says, but adds: ‘I don’t know for sure.’
French confirms HTC will continue to broaden its demographic with plans to bring out more devices aimed at the mid-market. He declines to give details but points to the Tattoo, aimed at the youth market, as evidence of the success of this strategy.
Turning to HTC’s expansion plans in Ireland, announced this week, French says: ‘We have never before held any serious presence there – it was about supporting customers but this is a much more meaningful entry.
‘It is a smaller market than the UK but with over one million mobile phone users and a very high ARPU market – the Irish are the highest spenders in Europe – it is still very exciting.’
However, French is keeping a careful eye on the economic climate as he launches his campaigns. He predicts the market will continue to be tough through 2010 and will face increasing competition.
‘Android has increased the number of players that want to come into the market and manufacturers need much more experience to stand up to more competition, so we are putting our foot to the floor in terms of market investment.’