HTC has made quite a flutter in the smartphone market with its launch of the first ever quad core smartphone in the world. However in less than a month, the hype of HTC one has died out and stocks of HTC have plummeted simply by the announcement of the new Galaxy S3. In my post about Exploring HTC’s performance in Indian smartphone market, I had discussed about HTC’s lack lustre performance.
Despite the company’s claims about introducing new apps and innovative technologies, attempts to enhance its brand presence have not entirely achieved the desired results. This post takes a look at the 4 major Sins committed by HTC in their Branding efforts and how it can make amends for a brighter future.
1) Many Brands, no Super Brand
Since its inception in 1997, HTC has faced stiff competition from Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung, and has been unable to leverage its brand image in comparison to these brands. This is largely because HTC has adopted a rather random branding strategy for their cell phones, which has made it very hard for potential customers to identify them. The line-up of smartphones has a variety of names including HTC Desire series, HTC Sensation, HTC Chacha .The innovativeness of each phone in the series is very often insufficient to even qualify for being launched as a separate product. For example, the HTC Incredible 1 and the HTC Incredible 2 only have a minor difference in the camera without any other significant difference.
2) “One” phone, many names
HTC One X is a hallmark smartphone, as it is the first Android phone to be equipped with a quad core processor. Besides this innovative feature, the One X is amusingly remembered for the number of name changes that it has undergone. It was all set to be named HTC Edge, which was then changed to HTC Endeavour, and there were speculations of it being named HTC Supreme. It seemed, HTC was trying too hard to decide a good enough name for their phone, worse still all this was being done in the eye of the public and hence diluted the brand image.
No other manufacturer comes to mind, which has had such a comedy of errors of sorts with the creation of a brand!
3) The Beats Fiasco
Another instance of HTC’s faulty branding is demonstrated in its tie-up with Beats. HTC tied up with the renowned player in the headphones market, Beats by Dr Dre, to equip its products with stellar sound quality. While this partnership was a technical success, HTC relied too heavily on Beats’ own brand appeal to attract potential buyers, especially from the teenager segment. In doing so, Beats brand gained a greater prominence over HTC’s.
HTC also made a slight error in focusing mainly on teenagers rather than techno- and audiophiles, who albeit a small segment are crucial to the success of a product. Teenagers, though the largest segment, usually observe how a particular product is performing in the market before venturing to buy it. And since HTC’s line of phones was not particularly designed to appeal to “connoisseurs”, they did not achieve their maximum success with the second target group either.
4) The Market Clutter
It has also been observed that HTC has adopted the strategy of introducing several phones into the market at the same time under varied names, while the features are not all that different from each other. This approach has a negative impact on the brand image as it appears to be compromising on the overall quality of each of its products. Instead, HTC should focus on introducing a few well-designed and technologically updated products into the smartphone market at the time. This will help them regain their stand against better performing brands. Besides, since the HTC One brand appears to be performing well and gaining a strong foothold, it would be wise for the company to stick with this name for similar phones and only change the name when they have a truly innovative line.
The Path to Salvation
HTC’s Chief Marketing Officer, John Wang has emphasized that the way forward for HTC isn’t about Branding communication, but rather about Product communications. HTC may be too late to create an exciting brand image considering the existing clutter in the smartphone market.
The path that HTC is choosing is to focus on consumer centric products, while this may sound egalitarian and borderline preachy, there is some merit to this strategy. Consumer first strategy will definitely help HTC create ample differentiation between its current crop of products and brands and create individual identities for each of them.
Something Samsung have managed to do over the past few years with its differentiation of Dual Sim, Android, Bada, Feature phone models etc. HTC should now focus on more headline brands, similar to “Galaxy Range” for Samsung or the “Lumia range “for Nokia. Perhaps HTC’s phones would be better off being named broadly under the HTC One brand.
A look at HTC mobile price list shows that they do have promising products for the premium and mid-range customer but lack a strong brand in the low end segment. HTC may correct this with the launch of the HTC Golf (HTC Wildfire C) in the coming months. HTC has learnt harsh lessons in branding over the past few years. Despite several promising and innovative products, HTC has failed to create interest in the consumers.
The launch of HTC One series of phones may help create a new chapter in the history of HTC and may help HTC create a strong brand with high salience and loyalty, however it depends heavily on HTC making amends and focusing more on uniformity in Branding and communications.