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HTC's Chou vows to improve marketing, innovation in 2013

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HTC CEO Peter Chou laid much of the blame for the smartphone maker's woes in 2012 on the back of weak and poorly executed marketing. He said the company will revive its fortunes in 2013 by being more innovative, nimble and focused in its marketing efforts. 

HTC CEO Peter Chou

Chou

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Chou said the company faced intense competition and failed to aggressively market its products. The company's flagship One series of products failed to ignite sales, with revenue falling for four consecutive quarters year-over-year as of the third quarter of 2012. HTC focused its marketing for that product line on the phones' camera and audio capabilities, with buzzwords like "amazing camera" and "authentic sound" to highlight image quality and sharing features and Beats audio technology.

"The worst for HTC has probably passed. 2013 will not be too bad," Chou said. "Our competitors were too strong and very resourceful, pouring in lots of money into marketing," he added. "We haven't done enough on the marketing front."

In November HTC named Benjamin Ho as its new CMO and he reports directly Chou. Previously, Ho served as vice president of business strategy and marketing at Taiwan's Far EasTone Telecommunications, and before that as vice president and CMO at Motorola Asia Pacific. HTC's Jason Mackenzie, who had served as president of global sales and marketing, will focus on HTC's global sales strategy. Former CMO John Wang left the company in December.

HTC has been trying to fend off Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung at the high end and the likes of ZTE and Huawei at the low end of the market. HTC's global smartphone market share has declined from 10.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 4 percent in the third quarter of this year, according to IDC. In the third quarter, HTC reported a 79 percent decline in profit and a 48 percent drop in revenue; profits declined to their lowest level in six years.

"Although we don't have as much money to counter [Samsung and Apple], the most important thing is to have unique products that appeal to consumers," Chou said. 

HTC is set to unveil its preliminary results for the fourth quarter Monday, but it has already warned that its revenue and profit are expected to slide. HTC banked on a renewed focus on Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 to help propel sales in the fourth quarter. 

HTC typically refreshes its product line at the annual Mobile World Congress trade show in February, and likely will do so again this year.

Chou has said the company needs to cut down on bureaucracy and has focused on streamlining operations. "One thing I'd learned from last year is to act fast and be responsive to market changes," he said. "We are being more flexible now. We are constantly fine-tuning our sales plans and position in various markets," he added.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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