After a set of three teasers, HTC released the launch video of their new theme campaign, ‘Here’s To Change’. The news of Robert Downey Jr. being their new spokesperson already created buzz for the brand and set up expectations. The teasers provided a glimpse of what to expect with ‘Humongous Tinfoil Catamaran’ and ‘Hipster Troll Carwash’.
Agency: 171 Worldwide
In my view, the whole campaign is worthy of compliment. Here’s why:
Right use of celebrity
Getting a celebrity to endorse your brand is considered a proven marketing tool. Some say it is a lazy way out to simply buy visibility. It all depends on choosing a celebrity with a good fit for the brand’s current business needs, a celebrity who can boost the brand’s fortunes and more importantly using the celebrity the right way. The self deprecating humour in the David Beckham ad for Pepsi delivered the promise of going to great lengths for a Pepsi in a light-hearted, endearing manner. The Think Different ads for Apple, associated the brand and its users with extraordinary thinkers & achievers – a cut above. There are tonnes of other examples – both for successful campaigns and disasters. A common feature of a successful celebrity association is that such a campaign suddenly makes the brand appear ‘cool’, acceptable and even desirable. I believe the HTC association with Robert Downey Jr. has that quality. Sure a brand doesn’t always need a celebrity to achieve that turnaround – a great product can do that too. With HTC, the positive feedback for its flagship smartphone HTC One partly did that trick. Despite a great product, it could not help the brand against the Samsung marketing muscle whose Galaxy S4 is considered the premium brand among Android phones and in some market, the most desirable smartphone beating the iPhone 5 too. In that context, ‘Here’s to change’ is a strategic fit – offering Samsung owners an alternative. Thanks largely to the fictional character ‘Tony Stark‘, there is an aura of coolness and style associated with Robert Downey Jr., despite his colourful background in real life. I believe that his association will help HTC.
The quirky campaign idea
Expanding HTC to ‘Here’s to Change’ and myriad other combinations has its pros and cons. The quirky ads (bordering on the bizarre, unfathomable) have polarized views – with many hating it. The prompting of name generation for HTC is just right for social media – it challenges people’s creativity and very importantly evokes participation. It does not work at a passive consumption level – it makes you react (positively or negatively) and talk about it in social media. Sure there is a lot of mocking and snarky comments about what HTC could stand for: Help This Company, Horrible TV Campaign etc., but (a) at least people are talking about it and (b) the negativity is not around the product (which are by and large positively received). It is far better than telecom companies and other service industry brands putting out a creative ad and the comments are largely about the poor service of the brand.
However, playing around with what HTC could stand for cannot be a long term proposition – fatigue can set in pretty quickly. It remains to be seen what the agency & the brand team does with the celebrity and how they take forward the ‘Here’s to Change’ campaign. But I think they have started well, despite negative reactions from a section of the press.