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HTC counting on viral marketing to challenge Samsung

April 05, 2013|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • HTC plans to market the HTC One using viral tactics and new media.
HTC plans to market the HTC One using viral tactics and new media. (HTC )

HTC, a brand known for making great hardware but never promoting it properly, will begin a marketing campaign Friday for the HTC One, its latest flagship smartphone.

But going up against Samsung, a company that has been pumping billions into the marketing for its smartphones, HTC knows it has to be savvy about how it markets its phone. That's why the Taiwanese company will focus on new media and viral marketing to get the word out on the HTC One.

"It's one thing to make a great device -- HTC has done that before," Mike Woodward, president of HTC America, told The Times this week. "What is a little different this time is the way that we're going to market."

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Woodward said the company is confident enough in the HTC One's quality that it just wants to get the phone into users' hands. HTC is hoping that by letting users play with the device, the same way Apple does with the iPhone and its retail stores, the HTC One will get promotion by word of mouth.

And so far the HTC One has been generating quite a buzz, at least among techies and the tech press. Early reviews of the phone have lauded it for its top-of-the-line design, its high-resolution display and its dual front-facing speakers, among other features.  TechnoBuffalo.com, a tech news site, even said it preferred the HTC One over the iPhone 5.

"We want to really get that down to the streets and get that down to consumers," Woodward said.

To accomplish this, HTC will be launching temporary retail locations in 11 malls across the U.S. where consumers can stop by and play with the HTC One in person. To buy it, though, they'll have to get it from a carrier or a retailer like Best Buy.

Besides the retail locations, HTC is also launching the "HTC Live Experience Tour," where it will promote the new device in popular tourist locations around the country, including Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles, Wrigley Field in Chicago and Columbus Circle in New York.

Those locations, which open Friday morning and will stay there for three weeks, will be in the shape of giant-sized boomboxes that people can walk into. HTC is going with a boombox to promote the phone's speakers, which are enhanced with Beats by Dre audio.

"We'll be doing traditional marketing, you'll see us on TV and all those things. That said, when you have as much confidence in your product as we do, we really want to make sure we get it in consumers' hands," Woodward said. "We think that viral word of mouth, in an age where there's so much media and so much marketing, is arguably more important."

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So while Samsung floods TV shows with commercials and bus stops with marketing posters, HTC will be focusing on showing the device to people in real life and on their favorite websites and mobile devices. HTC said it will running ads for the HTC One on sites and apps like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube and Vevo.

"Maybe things that are a little less traditional but are the exact right places for people that are interested in the types of experiences we provide," said Tom Harlin, head of public relations for HTC's Americas Region. 

Woodward said traditional marketing is better for raising awareness about a product. He said HTC is trying to show users why they might prefer the One, and digital marketing is a better tool for that.

Traditional marketing "doesn't necessarily get you to the point where you say 'Oh, I just got to have that phone,'" Woodward said. "To do that, you really need to experience it and pick it up and hear it from a friend."

HTC is timing its marketing now because pre-orders for the HTC One kicked off Thursday for AT&T customers and start Friday for Sprint users. The $200 phone will go on sale April 19 in stores. Later this spring, T-Mobile will also sell the device for $99.99 plus 24 payments of $20, for a total of $579.99.

The Samsung Galaxy S 4, the follow-up to 2012's extremely popular Galaxy S III, will also go on sale in late April. No specific release dates have been given for the GS4, but the HTC One will have to compete against that device and, of course, the iPhone 5.

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