"We want to make the device formerly known as the cellphone into the No. 1 icon of personal expression through technology to infuse the brand with youthfulness, edge, cool and fun," stated Larry Rinaldi, Motorola's ex-chief marketing officer for its Asia/Pacific personal communications sector.
Although he resigned from Motorola earlier this month, Rinaldi, an American based in Beijing, was one of the original architects of the music platform and was the first person to kick off the global strategy, in China.
The Chinese leg of the global MotoMusic campaign, launched earlier this summer, was spurred by deals to promote up-and-coming acts with major record companies such as Warner Music and EMI.
The first song to be featured by Motorola is from a local rock star named Pu Shu, who penned an original song for pre-loading onto handsets, called "Radio In My Head."
Songs by Pu and others are also posted on Chinese Web site (music.motorola.com.cn) and distributed on promotional CDs with Motorola branding. Motorola phone users also get special access to fan club events and eventually they will be able to download songs directly to their phones through agreements with wireless telecom service providers.
Motorola's connection with local musicians is leveraged with ads by Ogilvy & Mather, Motorola's global agency, as well as through its Web site, viral e-mail marketing, events and in-store music demonstrations.
"If you look into the future of mobile telecommunication, cellphones are not used only or even primarily for making phone calls. A mobile hand-set can give you access to rich content and data services," said Raymond Tao, VP of Ogilvy & Mather, Beijing.
The initial results are encouraging. Since the MotoMusic platform launched in China earlier this summer, the company has received more than 12 million hits on its Chinese Web site, mostly for the music zone section.
"The idea is great. Of all the gizmos that Chinese youth carry around, the cellphone is the most prevalent and the MP3 player is second. Putting them together, or adding music capability to a handset, makes a lot of sense," noted David Carini, an analyst at Norson Telecom Consulting in Beijing.
The Chinese effort comes on the heels of last March's introduction of handsets in the U.S. with extras such as integrated MP3 players and Surround Sound speakers, along with new wireless content created by Viacom's MTV International exclusively for Motorola, part of their three-year, multimillion dollar global marketing alliance.
Just last month, Motorola inked a deal with Apple Computer that allows consumers to transfer songs they buy from Apple's iTunes music store to Motorola cellphones with a USB port or a Bluetooth wireless connection. The service is expected to become available in the first half of 2005.
While Nokia, one of Motorola's largest global competitors, has already staked a claim in the portable game space and Sony Ericcson also offers content, music was a relatively untapped territory and an opportunity for Motorola to take ownership.
So last year, it devised its MotoMusic strategy that shifted the company's focus from handset manufacturing to management of music-oriented hardware, applications and content. New models, like the E398, are a portable music player and are a distribution channel and marketing tool for Motorola and its partners.
Beyond the basic extras like customized ring tones, artist wallpaper and screensavers, artists/music alerts and MP3 downloads, the phones can be used to listen to music, making them an alternative to Apple's successful iPod music players. A "Motomasher" feature even allows users to create their own MP3 ring tones.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Motorola needs to be particularly aggressive in China, because its brand has plummeted in the world's largest and most competitive cellphone market.
Five years ago, Motorola controlled more than half of China's mobile-phone market. Today, its market share has dropped to 14%, down from about 30% as recently as 2002. Nokia is the market leader with a 14.8% share, with Samsung trailing in third place with 11.9%, according to Sino Market Research.
"The Motorola brand has a youth problem," said Rinaldi, who has spent the past decade in China, at Young & Rubicam as well as Ogilvy.
He believes music can make the brand relevant for young adults: "Music has come through as Asian youth's main currency for self-expression, more than sport, fashion or film."