Ina Fried

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How HTC Aims to Make You Want One of Its One Phones

After spending last year trying to make its Sensation and Amaze phones Rezound with customers, Taiwan’s HTC plans to spend 2012 pushing just one major brand.

The HTC One phone will come in a lot of different flavors, models different enough that last year they would have each gone by a different name. But, conscious of the already crowded smartphone market, HTC is looking to try to focus its limited ad budget around the One brand. Executives say that while there are multiple One models, they are unified by their focus on great sound and great camera technology.

The One brand and its first three phones were announced at Mobile World Congress in February.

The initial One phones are due to go on sale globally this month, with HTC launching its biggest-ever ad campaign to push the new brand. The print, online and video spots are designed to feature customers pushing the new phones to their limits. In one spot, HTC had two photography students jump out of planes to capture a fashion shot in midair.

Nick Jojola, who was a skydiving novice, spent a week practicing, doing two jumps a day and then three days the next week doing the actual photography with a model plummeting at 126 miles per hour.

“He has literally .8 seconds of free fall to get that perfect shot,” said Greg Fisher, HTC’s VP of marketing. And because the company wanted to show off the One’s low-light capabilities, it did the photography only in the morning and evening. In all, about 120 seconds a day was all that the photographers had to work with.

“It was the strangest shoot I’ve ever been on,” Fisher said. “The rest of it (was) dead time.”

HTC is counting on that footage to go a long way. After experiencing huge growth through most of last year, the Taiwanese cellphone maker hit a wall as it struggled with increasing competition from Samsung, Apple and others.

Even as it aims to unify its efforts, HTC will have to deal with big marketing campaigns from rivals, including Nokia’s Lumia 900 campaign, as well as omnipresent Apple ads.

The One campaign will kick off in Europe and Asia starting this week as the first models are going on sale, followed by the U.S. in some weeks’ time. A second spot, which highlights the phone’s sound capabilities, will kick off in the U.S. later in the second quarter, and head to other parts of the world in the third quarter.

Here in the U.S., AT&T plans to sell the flagship HTC One X, while T-Mobile has said it will be the launch partner for the narrower HTC One S. Pricing and timing for the phones has yet to be announced.

Another One phone might not be that far off. HTC and Sprint have an event scheduled for Wednesday in New York, though the companies aren’t saying what is coming.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google