Jason Mackenzie, HTC’s president of global sales, is a gregarious, enthusiastic individual as it is. But he could hardly contain his excitement when talking about the company’s new One smartphone at MWC 2013.
The HTC One is a great example of what makes HTC better than its competitors, he said. HTC could have introduced a phone with a beautiful build and a Ferrari engine and called it a day, he said. But the company didn’t stop there, instead opting to introduce experiences through their products that “match and marry” with how consumers live, like the new BlinkFeed, Zoe, and BoomSound features. That’s what makes HTC special.
“We drive emotion and passion into our products,” said Mackenzie.
HTC, Tablets, and…Windows 8?
So far that tactic has proven to be effective, with the One picking up MWC best in show hardware. But with the One coming out in March, it begs the question of where the company goes from here. Is HTC planning on bringing more innovative, ground-breaking products headed to the market? Better yet, will it be expanding its view beyond smartphones once more?
Given that there haven’t been any tablet offerings from HTC since the Flyer almost two years ago, we inquired about the company’s future with tablets and whether or not they may begin working with Windows 8. While Mackenzie made it clear that more tablets from HTC was certainly a possibility, he didn’t get any more specific than that.
“[Tablets] are a category we’ve long been invested in,” said Mackenzie. “Yes, we’re interested. But I have no news to break today.”
That being said, he stressed that if and when HTC gets back into the tablet game, the company would want to “differentiate” their product from the competition and bring new excitement to the category. “We wouldn’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it.”
As for the possibility of incorporating Windows 8, Mackenzie said, “We’re looking at all options. Our two big partners are Android and Windows, so anything is possible.”
He continually stressed the company’s support of Windows, especially on the subject of Windows Phone, of which HTC is a major supporter. “We’ve been doing Windows Phone from the beginning,” said Mackenzie. “We have the most tenured Windows Phone engineering team in the world. [Windows Phone] holds a sacred place in HTC’s heart.”
So it would appear that HTC is still serious about supporting Windows Phone, but Mackenzie recognized the challenges of the platform, especially considering the success of the competition, saying, “There’s a lot of hard work to be done. We know there’s a tremendous amount of momentum behind Android, but it’s just going to take some time to build traction for Windows Phone.”
But if HTC wants to help Microsoft’s mobile platform gain some traction in the market, it first needs to build some traction of its own. With its smartphone marketshare currently down to the single digits, HTC is a major underdog compared to perennial leaders Apple and Samsung, and this isn’t lost on Mackenzie.
“We recognize that,” Mackenzie said of how stiff the competition is for HTC. “We’re super young and yet we’re battling against these giants.” HTC, he said, has embraced its challenger mentality.
“We’re David fighting Goliath.”
A New Approach
If HTC plans on going to battle with the industry giants, it will at least need a good sling for the fight, and that means changing its approach to competing in the mobile market.
“We’re trying to change our culture,” said Mackenzie. “For a while we followed that ‘Quietly Brilliant’ philosophy, but too often that translated into just being quiet. So we need to be bolder and more strategic in our communications.”
HTC’s awareness that it needs to adapt in order to survive against the bigger dogs has led to some notable changes. While Mackenzie says that the company’s pride in the HTC One played a major motivating factor in launching it ahead of MWC, it also proved to be a valuable marketing strategy.
“This is a special product,” said Mackenzie with regards to the One. “Last year, we made our announcements at MWC, but this is the best product we’ve ever made, the best on the market. So we wanted to make it special, not only by having our own event, but also by having a simultaneous show in London. And it worked.”
In the wake of the announcement of the One, Mackenzie said, 3,000 unique articles were generated about the launch, garnering 1.3 billion views, Tweets, and Retweets. It eventually went on to become the number one trending topic on Twitter for the day. A few days later, HTC had already raked in 100,000 pre-registered customers who were interested in the One.
“The buzz so far has been phenomenal,” he said.
Given that the event garnered some much-needed attention for HTC, it would appear that solo events may become the norm for the company and its future product launches, but nothing is written in stone. “We’ll probably do more of them in the future, but HTC’s a dynamic company that never says never,” said Mackenzie. “We’ll do what’s best for HTC at that time.”
But spreading awareness is the company’s biggest opportunity, claimed Mackenzie, because it’s important that HTC ensures that its phones make it into the hands of consumers before they make their decisions about what to buy. “If someone handles one of our phones [during the decision-making process], 9 times out of 10, they choose ours.”
The problem is, consumers don’t always see HTC’s phones. The game has changed, according to Mackenzie, and HTC needs to make sure that it stays one step ahead of its potential customers.
“Today, it’s changed. When a consumer walks into a store, they already know what they want. So we need to be more aggressive in our communications.”
That means more event marketing and, yes, maybe even more private launch events, as long as it ensures that the HTC name is front and center. “We’re going to go meet that customer where they are rather than relying on them to walk into a store and ask for our products.”
“We’re just anxious to get our product into peoples’ hands,” said Mackenzie. “This product that we made for them.”