Why Motorola CMO Jan Huckfeldt is leaning heavily on TV

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"This hype around digital and social is a bit of an exaggeration. It needs to be part of the mix, but it cannot be the only thing."

Fourteen months have passed since Jan Huckfeldt took the marketing reins of Motorola. Prior to his arrival, Ashton Kutcher was the cell phone company’s pitchman, and Droga5 was responsible for its creative. Today, Karina Kolokolchikova, a largely unknown actress, is the face of the brand, and Ogilvy, its creative AOR.

It’s a lot of change in not a lot of time, but when Apple and Samsung hold a combined 72.6 percent of U.S. market share and Motorola claims just 4.3 percent, every minute is precious. Thus, Huckfeldt has positioned Motorola as a challenger to its smartphone competitors.

In September, the marketer directly went after them by taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times, prompting consumers to "Skip the Sevens," as in the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy 7s. In November, Motorola boldly took a swipe at Apple by pointing out that "rose gold isn’t an idea, it’s a color" in the brand’s "Hello Moto" spot—its first TV ad since 2011. Now, the brand launches its latest video titled "Hello Dinner," which demonstrates that the Moto Z brings users together with Mods by connecting them in gaming, video projection and music speakers.

All three ads are part of Motorola’s "Different is Better" initiative, and Campaign U.S. caught up with the CMO to discover just how different Huckfeldt intends Motorola to be. 

Motorola has undergone many changes—from being owned by Google to now Lenovo and from being an industry leader with the Razr in the early 2000s to now no. 4 in the U.S. How are you adapting the brand to fit this shifting landscape?
When I took on this role, I found myself with quite a number of brands. I made a pretty simple and straightforward, strategic decision to focus on Motorola only. If you look at the smartphone business, it is highly competitive. You cannot be in that market unless you are highly focused. We basically went from probably four or five different brands, which we entertained globally, to just one brand.

Secondly, we reduced our product lineup from over 45 products to 10 to 12 products.

The other thing that I did, I brought back some of those key brand aspects. Certainly the batwing [logo] was one of them. The batwing had almost disappeared in our marketing materials and from our product. The batwing is probably the sexiest icon in the IT industry besides the Apple logo.

The other thing was "Hello Moto," which was a sound mnemonic used very successfully and was a beautiful brand asset because most brands are just appealing to the human eye. But here is one that appeals to the human ear. It's a perfect additional brand device.

And how did these changes affect Motorola’s advertising?
I think if you look at our advertising, whether it's the TV campaigns or our other materials to date, they very clearly speak of a highly distinctive brand. Most of our competition is following the less-is-more approach from the two big players, which influence each other. We are clearly speaking and standing out. We were influenced by some of the passion brands, like Kenzo. I think it helps us a lot.

The other thing that we adopted is the tone of voice that is very much that of a challenger. When we launched our highly differentiated product, Moto Z with those Mods, in the beginning, we actually focused our efforts in the U.S. in terms of advertising predominantly on reaching those Android users within Verizon. We decided that to target them, let's rely on digital and social and hit those consumers at a very high frequency. Now, with those efforts, all our metrics were green. In fact, Facebook used our case, our approach, as a best-in-class case during their earnings announcements in the fall of last year. It didn't really make an impact. All these efforts on digital and social, didn't really make an impact for the brand and for the selling of our product.

We looked at this picture again and said, we have to be much bolder. We have to advance our change of visual identity, which we had planned for January. We did this. We then adopted this challenger-brand attitude. I also sent an open letter inviting consumers to skip the seventh generation of those two big brands. That was accompanied by a bold PR stance, which we did deliver, where we invited consumers, Apple users, to actually look at our new technology, the Moto Z with the Mod, but not disclosing the brand. We only disclosed it at the very end. They were believing this was the latest Apple product. We captured their reactions and put it out on the Web.

Why didn’t you find digital advertising effective? Initially, you focused on Facebook ads but then followed it up with more traditional methods of TV and print.
If you want to revive a brand and you really want to build a brand quickly, if you bank on social and digital, it's not going to work.

In general, I think engagement marketing is a very interesting tool. However, engagement marketing, by definition, will over-proportionally address your loyal consumer base because they know your brand and they've bought into the franchise and ultimately will be more likely to actually engage with your brand. When you do engagement marketing—and many of the social tactics are very much driving toward building or driving social engagement—you ultimately talk to your user base rather than reaching new consumers. Therefore, focusing on that alone is a flawed strategy.

If you want to build a brand, you need to drive reach. Instead of investing in an overload of frequency, you should rather look into driving as much reach and continuity as possible. That is going to be our overall media strategy. Social and digital platforms play a role, but it is certainly not the only thing we do. I think the majority of our dollars will be rather spent in TV in places like the U.S. because that is still the biggest reach media that is available. I actually think we are not the only brand realizing that maybe this hype around digital and social is a bit of an exaggeration. It is a very interesting tool. It needs to be part of the mix, but it cannot be the only thing.

Motorola’s campaign is titled "Different is Better," so how are you being different from Samsung and Apple?
I think that we deliver a technology that really breaks the limitations of the smartphone industry and helps people to actually appreciate much more of a social play around those Mods—whether it's listening to music—not via your headphones but via our JBL Sound Mod—or if it's the Projector Mod where you can easily enjoy a film together rather than looking alone on your little screen. I think we are really bringing novelty to the market and addressing this phone/life balance, which is, I think, a growing concern among the population, the mindless usage of the phone. We've done a lot of research in this area, and we're very eager to come out with the campaign, which is very focused on this topic.

How do you get the best creative out of your agency, Ogilvy?
What we decided is that we really want to go for, first of all, a top agency. Secondly, we want to look for a network that we can use globally. Ogilvy was a really good choice. It actually happened at the very same time when I started. It was not my decision, but I think would have done the same.

Why Ogilvy? First, we used them across Lenovo, corporate-wide, but Ogilvy used to be the agency doing the Razr campaign during the heyday of Motorola.

Ultimately, it's been working with the agency during my P&G days and working for HP and now Lenovo and Motorola. From my P&G days, I'm very focused on building a relationship. It's very much a two-way street. You only get as much out of a relationship as you put in, right? That starts with making sure that there's a good relationship built, a human relationship.

Then, whenever it comes to the actual campaign, it stands and falls with having a very sharp brief. I think we are doing a good job today. We are developing the brief internally at first, but then very quickly, we're actually discussing the brief in detail with the Ogilvy team. We can always get better and sharper, and we're working on it. If I had to name one thing, then it is really getting the brief right.

Karina Kolokolchikova isn’t a very well-known actress. Why not go with a celebrity?
Celebrities, or external equities as I call them, are endorsers, football clubs, Formula 1 or whatever it might be. Twice a week, I get an offer from various external equities. Yes, that can be a strategy that can help you to increase your awareness and drive sales, but I'm skeptical and not convinced.

I'd rather find and define a highly distinctive brand using clearly defined brand elements and assets that have a high level of fame like our batwing and "Hello Moto" and the uniqueness to it. Then, use our means and our creativity to actually get to top of mind of our consumers and ultimately drive consideration and preference of the brand.

I don't think you necessarily need to pay millions of dollars for a star. There's always the question whether you built the equity off that celebrity or your own, and you're dependent on the behavior of that celebrity, etc. Ultimately, it just eats a lot of your budget. I'm not necessarily convinced that this is the best way. In this case, I think we're on an extremely good path. I don't think we need a celebrity.

As you said, the smartphone industry is very competitive. What's your marketing budget look like this year?
We have a global footprint. We're playing in all the big markets. We are no. 2 in Brazil. Over the past year, we've been no. 2 in India. When you look at our aggressive task of ultimately becoming one of those top three global players, we know that we need to invest.

We have a fantastic brand to invest in because we have this very high residual brand equity across the world. Whether you're in China, Russia, India or Europe, the residual brand equity is 75 percent-plus.

We have a campaign at hand that is working really well. When you have those basics checked, there is not much which should hold that back. I think we are looking at an investment globally for the full year of about $1 billion in the Motorola brand.