Hi HTC? This is PhoneNews.com. More specifically, the people that run PhoneNews.com. We don’t hear from you guys much these days, but based on what your CEO said this week, we’re guessing you are focused on making great new ads.
We have a simple message for you: Advertising is not why your sales (or profits) are flat.
In 2012, HTC made a couple of major changes. It cut the number of devices it was selling, to focus on a smaller set of devices. And, it stopped selling certain devices. Tablets and smartphones with physical keyboards both got the axe.
And, we’re not here to say 2012 was a total mess. There were some major gains for HTC in prepaid. The HTC EVO V and One V are great devices, we’re amazed that prepaid operators have managed to sell them at times for as low as $50. Many people now carry HTC devices as iPod touch alternatives as a result.
But, when your flagship achievement is a killer $50 prepaid device, we can understand why you’re concerned about not making money.
Advertising won’t solve that problem. To make money, you have to make a killer high-margin product. Right now, HTC doesn’t.
Granted, you might be quick at HTC to start throwing out device names; the One X+ comes to mind. No, we’re not judging you down because you didn’t send us one, or even ask us what the heck we thought of it. Weber Shandwick has our number, just tell them to put us back on the autoship lists.
What we are complaining about however is two key areas that HTC is missing the mark on: product differentiation and monolithic branding.
Tell me three reasons why I should buy an HTC One X+ over a Galaxy S III? Okay, now did you really expect anyone on the street to care about two of those three reasons? No. All I heard was cheaper and minute feature, minute feature… starting to understand?
NO BEATS AUDIO FAIL DOES NOT COUNT, ahem. Excuse me. Please don’t interrupt.
HTC in 2012 tried to create a Samsung Galaxy brand out of the HTC One brand. The problem is that HTC gave in too much to carrier requests, and watered down the HTC One brand from day one. There are a few cruddy Samsung Galaxy devices out there, sure. But, Samsung did something pretty smart; they killed them all off quicky.
See many Galaxy Aces in stores? Didn’t think so. See Galaxy Precedent anywhere but in a poverty-stricken section of a retailer? Right, no.
HTC One V should never have been branded an HTC One device. It just shouldn’t have. It can’t even run Jelly Bean, and you’re calling it by one letter difference than The HTC One X+? Sorry, but that confuses consumers about what the HTC One series stands for.
Samsung made sure anything with the Galaxy S brand had a key lineage. Galaxy S II family devices are now today’s mid-range phones, Galaxy S III’s are the vanguard. Galaxy S III mini is less than an S III, but better than an S II.
Where Samsung learned from their initial mis-brandings (Galaxy Ace), HTC is falling into those traps over, and over again. Here comes the HTC One V2, just announced with LTE. Great, and Android 4.0. Still one letter off from your most powerful phone, and no average consumer knows that. They know that the $50 One V is slow, and nowhere near a Galaxy S III. That’s the phone that’s selling a lot right now.
Kill the One
There is no salvaging the HTC One brand at this point. And it should not be followed with an HTC Two. Quick aside… what were you thinking, HTC, when the HTC One brand was made. Yeah, some branding expert in Taiwan told you One meant first in both the USA and Japan.
But, where was the brand supposed to go after the first gen? HTC One XX? HTC One XXX? Doesn’t sound as good as Galaxy S III, does it?
Yeah, it hurts hearing this for free, when you probably paid some idiot $50,000 to come up with HTC One as a brand. Maybe you should call us next time, invite us to your HQ, ask us what we think.
If you want to start over, properly, now is the time. Create a new brand, a new name that inspires confidence in the brand, and can act as a vanguard. We’d think of some names, but we’d get 15 comments, of which 10 would be alternatives, and five would be asking why we didn’t charge you at least $40,000 for a brand execution strategy.
Anyways, pick a confidence inspiring name, and stick with it. No really, one device. The same device on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. The best thing HTC could do in 2013, is sell one phone, and one phone only at a time. One epic device that, outside of prepaid, is the only device HTC sells. That device should be a Galaxy S III killer, a Nexus 4 killer. It should be rocket fast. It should have a camera that even has a slight bulge to it, doesn’t matter. It needs to take better photos than anyone.
There are thinner phones than iPhone, nobody cares. There are phones lighter and heavier than iPhone. Those are not key differentiators. They know one phone is available on all four carriers (well, T-Mobile unlocked anyways), and works exactly the same.
What made HTC successful? Phones that had the weight of a small brick, but ran circles around everything. And, every carrier had some nearly-identical version of the device. Go back to your roots, just this time use one monolithic name to promote it. Make a phone that sacrifices everything necessary to be the best, even a bit of weight and bulk.
And, finally, if you want to really get ahead, offer a Wi-Fi version of that device. Be disruptive. Offer a VoIP edition of your killer smartphone. Think it’s really that disruptive? iPod touch does it all day long. Charge $100 over the on-contract price for the cellular versions. Even if it doesn’t sell much, it will get people talking a lot as a halo device. HTC then isn’t just competing with iPhone, it then has an epic iPod rival too.
Geeks that want a VoIP experience will grab their Virgin Mobile hotspots and cut the cellular cord, with a flagship HTC smartphone. If you don’t do that, they’ll do it anyways… just with a Nexus 4 instead.
Once brand confidence in HTC hits the market, and really, confidence is what HTC needs to showcase at this point, then you can mix it up with a Galaxy S III mini or an iPhone 4 free-on-contract. Those devices only sell well because the companies behind them focused on only selling one device across all carriers, and grew from there.
We get it, the carriers come to you and say that they want this change, and that change, and that HTC is in a “unique position” to make them happy. Tell them all to be quiet and sell the best phone on the market. If the carriers gave a damn about HTC, they would be stopping your sales bleed by setting quotas in-store to push your phones out the door.
In the end, even if you hate every shred of information we just gave, this part is undeniable. If your next major phone isn’t the best on the market, and easy to identify by consumers, no amount of ads will save HTC.
P.S. The HTC Thunderbolt and Droid Incredible 2 are now over a year late in getting Android 4.0 updates. It’s nice we didn’t have to write another “dishonor” article about you guys killing off another promised upgrade – but dragging feet this long doesn’t inspire brand confidence either.