HTC's CEO knows his company has a problem. It's not that the smartphone pioneer doesn't know how to make good devices—the HTC One X and One S were two of the best phones of 2012. It's that the company has been outgunned on both the innovation and (especially) the marketing front by you-know-who. While Samsung has become the epitome of anti-Apple cool, it's not clear what HTC stands for. After watching the unveiling of the HTC One this week, I'd say this perennial underdog has a chance to steal some much needed share away from its bigger rival. But to truly execute, HTC will need to follow my five tips.
1. Pay Your Partners to Promote the Heck out of BlinkFeed
HTC was smart to trot out an ESPN global sales and marketing president during its introduction of BlinkFeed, a new service for the HTC One that streams live updates to the phone's home screen. With more than 1,400 content partners in its stable, it's in HTC's best interest to leverage its partners to give this phone more scale. Part of HTC's marketing budget must go to brands like ESPN, MTV, AOL and others so that anyone who tunes into SportsCenter or Snooki & Jwoww know that there's a new way to keep up on the latest scores and Snooki's top 5 diaper changing tips. Lip service on launch day just won't cut it; HTC must foster these partnerships heading up to and well beyond launch so that the One is top of mind when folks are watching these programs.
2. Play Up the Killer Clicker Angle with Best Buy
The HTC One is the first smartphone ever that can double as a TV remote out of the box without a third-party accessory. By integrating both an IR blaster into the design and software from Peel, you can see what's on TV and change the channel by tapping the screen. To me that's a killer feature. And since Best Buy is a key launch partner, offering all three versions for AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, I would set up a living room environment in retail locations that show couch potatoes how easy it is to set up Sense TV. And make sure sales reps attach an HTC Media Link accessory to the big screen so shoppers can see that they can stream from online services too, like Hulu and HTC Watch.
3. Choose a More Memorable Slogan
I would wager that if you uttered the following words to most smartphone shoppers—“The Next Big Thing Is Already Here”—9 out of 10 of them would know that the brand is Samsung. It also doesn't hurt that Samsung has the budget to hire the likes of Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen. Do you remember HTC's tagline from last year? Me neither. No, I'm not a marketing expert, but I do think HTC needs to emphasize the One product name more. As in, “There's Only One.” And I would use that phrase as a jumping off point. There's only one phone that shoots Ultrapixels. There's only one phone that changes the way you watch TV. There's only one phone that sounds like this. You get the picture. I think it works.
4. Put Your Ultrapixel Money Where Your Mouth Is
Showcasing the photos the HTC One's Ultrapixel camera takes versus the competition in low-light conditions was a good first step at the launch event. However, it's going to take persistence to convince the masses that less megapixels can be better if you have the right sensor. HTC should spread the word by letting people test drive the One versus other flagship smartphones at concerts, theme parks and other highly trafficked locations and publish the results for all the world to see. It can be a mini campaign of its own called Ultrapixels vs Megapixels: What's Better? No Nokia Lumia fakery allowed.
5. Get Verizon on Board, Pronto
Although HTC deserves credit for launching the HTC One on three out of the four major U.S. carriers, Verizon Wireless is conspicuously absent. Sure, the HTC DNA is still relatively new and sports a 5-inch 1080p screen, but HTC still needs Big Red. Part of the reason Samsung has grown so quickly is that the last few iterations of the Galaxy line has launched on all major providers. You simply can't expect to take on Sammy with one arm tied behind your back, especially when Verizon has the biggest 4G LTE network by far. I hope HTC is working feverishly behind the scenes to get a deal done with VZW—even if it needs to cave on the name. HTC Droid One works for me.
Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter and Google+.