HTC is renowned for its innovation – the brand will proudly inform you about all the features it has developed that are now industry standards. The problem hasn’t been developing quality products, it’s been turning five-star reviews into five-star sales figures.
Word of mouth vs wad of cash
In HTC’s defence, the manufacturer doesn’t leverage the huge marketing budget of its rivals in the smartphone market and has therefore been forced to find innovative ways of marketing to the consumer. One method HTC has used is to boost brand awareness by venturing into products and channels outside the smartphone market, such as the Zoe social network photo editing app, and the RE camera HTC UK, as general manager Peter Frølund explains: ‘You can promote your brand through innovation by developing a great product, you can do it through word of mouth and you can do it by spending money on advertising. There are many different ways to convince a consumer to purchase a product; at HTC we try to look at innovative ways to improve brand awareness.
‘If someone with an Android phone downloads the Zoe app they become aware of HTC and what we are doing; they come into contact with the brand. If they buy an RE camera that’s another way in which they become aware of what HTC is about.’
The problem with this strategy is that brand awareness doesn’t necessarily result in smartphone sales. In fact it’s an incredibly hard transition to make. Just ask Sony – if everyone who owns a PlayStation also owned a Sony Mobile they’d be one of the most popular phones in the world.
The online marketplace has completely changed the way in which phones are marketed to consumers. The power of five stars online should play to HTC’s strengths as a brand that frequently achieves great reviews, yet at the same time customers are also pushed towards devices that aren’t quite right for them. Peter Frølund believes that this should inform a manufacturer’s approach: ‘Things are changing, the way to reach a customer is different from how it used to be. When a consumer wants to buy a phone they go online to research. In this area the focus is very much on the flagships, but these phones aren’t right for everybody. Many of these devices look similar too; it’s about standing out in other ways. Our phones have original designs, but they also wear incredibly well and continue to perform, even with heavy use.’
Biggest doesn’t mean best
With a history of best-in-class phones and list of innovations that have gone on to be industry standards, it makes you wonder whether HTC is annoyed when others imitate its phones’ features and then ship shedloads of handsets. But Peter Frølund’s stance is markedly different from others in the market: ‘If you do something great and someone is inspired by what you are doing that is a compliment. At HTC this pushes us to work harder to do even more. Looking at other industries beyond mobile, the best product is not always the best selling product. We always want to sell more phones, but we don’t work only to be the biggest, we want to provide the best experience. We want a bigger market share, but we’d like it to be spread, we don’t want to only focus on our flagships, we want to give people more for their money. One size does not fit all; that’s why we have come up with a range of phones at different price points.’