Motorola Press Coverage
Have had some nice media coverage of the Motorola brand situation.
Who Keeps the Motorola Brand?
Big news day for Motorola with the announcement by CEO Greg Brown that they would be splitting off the company's mobile handset business. As we have covered before, this news the latest in a series of shake-ups, mix-ups and screw-ups that have dropped the tech giant to a shaky 3rd in the market for cellular handsets.
Brand issues often arise in M&A situations where the merged entity has to weigh the market equities and decide whether to keep one of the pre-existing brands or create a new one. This process is often fraught with emotion as loyalists on both sides make claims as to their brand's predominance.
Motorola's breakup brings the company face-to-face with a corollary challenge: which of the two emerging companies gets the Motorola brand and how is the other company branded? In the early part of the decade, Accenture and BearingPoint brands were born out of similar splits. Freescale Semiconductor was created in 2004 after the spin off of Motorola's semiconductor business.
It seems fairly clear that the handset business needs the brand more than does the set-top box/modems side of the house. At the same time, neither side can afford to lose any advantages.
As it splits, Motorola will need to think creatively about how it maximizes the brand assets it has. One possibility would be to use the "Moto" brand -- a cornerstone of the handset advertising campaign and a recognizable brand in its own right -- as the new handset brand. This raises questions about global applicability of the Moto brand, and yet desperate times call for desperate measures.
Of course these are also emotional times at Motorola. Senior management is going to have to keep a cool head and get some good counsel.
Tracking Brand HTC
As close-readers of this blog will remember, at the end of last year we picked HTC to be Brand of the Year 2008.
In the spirit following up that bet, a couple of interesting developments this week:
New website: HTC has revamped its website which was definitely overdue for a change. The new site does a much better showing off the company's fantastic product line (although it could use some more QA). I have been a member of the "eClub" for a while but its not particularly active. Perhaps this web relaunch will re-engerize their efforts to engage customers directly.
New press coverage: Laptop Magazine has a new interview with CEO Peter Chou which is not quite as detailed as the one he did with Engadget in December, but does have some new info. Particularly interesting is HTC's focus on interface innovations and (selective) commitment to its original ODM business as with the highly-anticipated Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA line.
Product branding: This week, HTC (or, more accurately, "someone close to the situation") announced that the Android "Google phone" that HTC is working on will be called "Dream". Interesting to see that the company is putting much more effort into its product naming strategy, at least for high profile products. Traditionally HTC's product naming has been more about non-committal non sequiturs which its channel partners were left to rename (Kaiser becomes Tilt, Excalibur becomes Dash, etc). Seems like HTC stepping to the challenge of getting its product marketing in order.
Intel is the kind of client that branding consultants dream of. In addition to being the world's largest manufacturer of semiconductors, Intel has also run one of the most successful ingredient branding campaigns in history. Beginning in 1991, Intel successfully stemmed the tides of commoditization with a simple sticker that assured consumers that the computer they were buying was powered by the latest and greatest technology. Over the years, the campaign has changed to reflect Intel's enormously complex product portfolio, but the basic parameters of the campaign (backed up with some serious co-op marketing dollars) have kept would-be competitors like AMD at bay.
Today's announcement that Intel would be introducing Atom, a new brand for its line of low-power processors is the next evolution in this ingredient brand strategy.
This new generation of extremely small, energy efficient processors are the core of Intel's bid to power smaller devices such as mobile phones, ultra mobile PCs and low cost laptops (Intel calls them Mobile Internet Devices). Intel has struggled to find its place in the market for mobile phones, the hope now is that Atom will allow them to do so.
As a name Atom is so good that it's a miracle it made it through Intel's trademark attorneys. It elegantly conveys the key benefits of the product line in a simple and appealing word (and only 4 letters!).
And yet while the technology is revolutionary, the marketing strategy looks like more of the same. Great brands are defined by the flexibility with which they evolve to meet the challenges of new market realities. Intel on the other hand seems stymied by the success of a strategy that it has employed for 17 years.
The market for mobile phones and ultra portables is much different than the market for PCs in which Intel's brand strategy worked so well. Is there room for another ingredient brand in this muddled, fast-changing and poorly understood marketplace? Is there room for an ingredient brand on the slim and forever slimming form-factors of cellular phones? Will the Intel brand hold the same degree of influence with consumers in emerging markets; for whom mobile devices will be their first and primary computing experience? Finally how should the Intel brand--and its ingredient brands--adapt to the realities of a world where computing power is less relevant than connectivity?
No one can know the answers to all of these questions, but slapping another "inside" brand on this new generation of devices will almost certainly fall short of the mark.