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HTC Turns to Music, Film, TV For Brand Overhaul In Wake of Facebook Phone

Targeting Millennials Shopping for their First Smartphone

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HTC is not done trying to surprise you. In fact, yesterday's announcement about HTC First -- the device that will forever be known as the Facebook phone -- was just the beginning of a brand overhaul that will officially commence Friday morning when the company unveils its marketing campaign for its other to-be-released smartphone, the HTC One.

Taglined "Everything Your Phone Isn't," VP-marketing Erin McGeee said HTC's new marketing push will embrace the company's "underdog" status. Although the company is conceding its low market share position, HTC is not going after easily-attracted consumers buying smartphones for the first time. Rather, it wants to attract what it calls "Generation Feed" -- the company's moniker for tech-savvy, early-adopting millennials -- and its looking to the entertainment world to grab their fragmented attention spans.

"Tech millennials are hard to connect with," Ms. McGee said. "Wanted to create a closer connection by targeting passion points."

One of those passion points is music. HTC has teamed up with high-end audio equipment manufacturer Beats and concert production company Live Nation to help market the HTC as the ideal phone for young audiophiles. HTC One's BoomSound feature will include a dual-audio front-facing speaker system with built-in amplifiers and Beats Audio technology.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 will allow users to sync their devices to mimic a five-speaker surround sound stereo system, a functionality Ms. McGee readily dismissed as inferior.

"It takes five GS4s to get to the sound volume of one HTC One," she said.

BoomSound will also be the name of a short concert series thrown by Live Nation and branded by HTC. Two BoomSound Lounge concerts -- rapper Pharrell in New York City and indie rock band Grouplove in Chicago -- will be thrown on April 19 to coincide with the phone's on-the-shelf launch. A third BoomSound Lounge show will be held in Los Angeles on April 25 with a to be determined artist.

HTC One ads will also appear in print and digital versions of Rolling Stone and Vibe.

Ms. McGee added that HTC's desired users also tend to see lots of movies, so the company will be marketing to them at the theater as well. An HTC-branded Funny or Die video will start running before movie trailers, and the company plans to advertise during "irreverent, edgy TV programming" such as Adult Swim, a comedy block under Turner's Cartoon Network.

Selling to millennials will be difficult considering nearly all (92.3%) of U.S. millennials -- individuals born between 1981 and 2000 -- already own a mobile phone, according to eMarketer. Only 56.8% are smartphone users, however, so HTC could possibly capture the Millennial market by luring them into buying their first smartphone.

While Ms. McGee is adamant about HTC telling a unique brand story she makes no qualms about the fact that the company will be competing directly with Samsung. HTC has failed to brand its innovations in the past, she said, thus allowing Samsung to coopt them and be viewed as more technologically advanced.

"Samsung is the other large Android provider, so it's a natural adversary if you will," Ms. McGee said.

HTC's scrappy new nature is perhaps best exemplified by the company attempting to steal some of Samsung's thunder last month at Samsung's heavily anticipated launch event for the Galaxy S4. While press waited outside Radio City Music Hall for the event, HTC marketers handed them Pringles can and water bottles branded with the HTC One logo.

HTC currently ranks fourth in U.S. smartphone market share behind Apple, Samsung and Motorola, and the company's sales have decreased in the past year, according to eMarketer. HTC share of U.S. smartphone sales decreased from 14% in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 6% a year later.

HTC is currently working with Omnicom Media Group for media and WPP's Ogilvy & Mather for creative.

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