One of my favorite shows of all time is Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Like most of Whedon’s shows, a passionate fan base quickly emerged. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after just one season, and none of the networks wanted to pick it up for a second. Why? The numbers weren’t that great. The characters, the sets, and the story were all fantastic. So why did it do so poorly? Even Serenity, the major motion picture that followed the series, didn’t break any box office records. Why? In both cases, it came down to marketing — or the lack thereof. We’re seeing the same thing play out again, only this time it’s smartphones.
Here we are, just days after the release of HTC‘s latest and greatest flagship smartphone. Some people love it, some people hate it. Regardless of which camp you’re in, the fact remains, the 2014 HTC One M8 is a remarkable phone that will suit your needs just fine. Let’s face it, for at least 80% of the users, this year’s HTC One will do absolutely everything they need it to do. Similarly, the same could be said about last year’s HTC One. So why do phones by Samsung and other OEMs sell so much better than those by HTC?
In a word: Marketing
Marketing is what makes the world go ’round — or so they say. You can have the greatest product in the world, but not a single soul will buy it if they don’t know about it.
Firefly wasn’t teased or advertised on the Fox network before it aired. For the most part, the only reason people knew about was thanks to a write-up in TV Guide. What’s worse, Fox decided to air the episodes out of order, starting at number four instead of number one. In retrospect, one has to wonder if Fox didn’t deliberately set out to fail.
HTC’s marketing hasn’t been quite that bad, but when compared to Samsung’s, it’s been terrible. Ironically, one of HTC’s new commercials seems to underscore this fact: “It doesn’t matter what I say … because the all new HTC One is designed for people who form their own opinions, so go ahead and ask the Internet”.
That’s why you’re here, no doubt. But simply “asking the Internet” won’t cut it. Samsung knows this. Every time there’s a new Samsung device you see ads plastered everywhere. Subway stations, buses, taxi cabs, construction sites, huge banners in Time Square, commercials on television, and even ads plastered above urinals (trust me on this one, ladies).
That’s the first phase of Samsung’s marketing: awareness everywhere! Even if you don’t own a Samsung device, you know what they are, what they look like, and why your friends are buying them.
Next, any phone store you walk into will have a Samsung display that ties in to all the ads you’re seeing all over the place. You’ll naturally head toward the display because it’s familiar to you. Once you’re there a sales person simply asks a few questions about which Samsung will suit you best, and voilà, you’re now the proud owner of a Samsung device.
After that you’re a walking, talking billboard. Your friends and family see what you have and either know right away, or they’ll ask you if they’re unsure. Your answer that it’s a Samsung blah-de-blah adds credibility to the Samsung brand, and all the marketing they’ve been seeing. The next time their phone is slow, lost, wet, or runs out of juice, their mind turns to the images that Samsung’s marketing has carefully planted there. Before they know it, they’re standing at a familiar Samsung display and the sales person is asking them those questions, and telling them which Samsung — not which phone — will suit them best.
As more people buy its products and their friends, family, and acquaintances see that branded device all over the place, the circle grows ever larger, repeating again and again. As it turns out, people are buying Samsung’s phones not because they’re necessarily the “best”, or even the “best value”, but because they’re “not Apple” and are what they see other people using all over the place. That, folks, is Marketing with a capital M.
That’s what HTC needs do to. But it won’t. To quote from another of its commercials: “See, at HTC they don’t make phones for everyone…” No, HTC doesn’t make phones for everyone. It doesn’t market to everyone either.
That is the problem.
Image credit: Walls.com