HTC’s billion-dollar campaign to resurrect the company looks like a dud

Business Insider Contributor
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HTC released the full version of its new ad starring Robert Downey Jr. today.

The new commercial is the first in what is said to be a $1 billion campaign to resurrect the company. But the spot is just…bizarre.

Here’s what’s going on. HTC has a branding problem. Its revenue is tanking year over year. Right now, its biggest rival in Android smartphones, Samsung, is the only true competitor to Apple in terms of sales and profit. In fact, Apple and Samsung split nearly all the profits in the mobile industry between them.

Part of the reason Samsung has been so successful is that it spends billions on marketing every year. HTC hasn’t been able to spend that kind of cash, and even though it makes what is widely considered to be the best Android phone in the world, it’s still not a household name like Apple and Samsung.

This commercial is less about the products HTC makes and more about the company itself. HTC’s One phone does appear in the commercial, but it’s more of a prop than anything else. Downey Jr. is the star.

Others have tried a similar strategy with little success. When Microsoft launched its new Surface tablet last year, its commercials didn’t show what the tablet could do. Instead, it was just a bunch of people dancing around.

In an interview earlier this year, Microsoft’s marketing boss Tami Reller told Business Insider that those commercials were designed to get the public familiar with the Surface brand. That didn’t turn out so well though. Microsoft was forced to take a $900 million write down on its Surface RT tablet this year. Later, it said it only generated $853 million in revenue from Surface sales.

With its new campaign, it seems like HTC is at risk of falling into the same trap. Technology is wonky and scary to most people. Part of Samsung and Apple’s success in mobile comes from the fact that their marketing explains in dead-simple terms what their devices can do and how they work so normal people understand

HTC’s commercial doesn’t accomplish that:

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