Building a simple cell

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At a time when cellphone-handset manufacturers are embedding more advanced and complicated features, and when technology-related companies have taken to the streets, literally, to explain how to use cellphones and other consumer devices, Kyocera Wireless Corp. is repositioning its brand from top to bottom with a "simple" strategy.

From a company manifesto covering all aspects of operations to design and development to human resources and marketing, the "genius of simplicity" positioning is an attempt to gain share in a crowded marketplace where handset manufacturers have taken a backseat to cellphone-service providers and advertising-focused-on-feature wars. "Ease of use has to be the core competency," said Don McGuire, VP-global marketing, Kyocera Wireless Corp.


Kyocera needs to improve its focus as it, like other cellphone marketers, loses share to fast-growing Korean producers, Samsung and LG. According to Strategy Analytics, Kyocera is the No. 5 brand in the U.S. with a 6.3 % market share in 2003, down from 9.1% in 2002. Also dropping share were No. 1 Nokia, down from 29.8% to 27.7% and Motorola, down from 27.6% to 26.3%. Winners were No. 3 Samsung, up to 12.1% from 10.4% and No. 4 LG, 11.8%, up from 8.5.

Telecom analysts believe winning technologies over the long haul will be both simple and intuitive as well as feature rich. "Simplicity, it's an idea whose time has come," especially for Kyocera, said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst. The phone manufacturer had one of the first "smart phones," which combined personal digital assistants and other features with a cellphone, but the devices were "clunky and hard to use" in a market now focused on Treo from palmOne.

Kyocera began its journey to simplicity with consumer research that found mobile-phone users begging to "just make it easy to use," Mr. McGuire said. As phone features multiply, from cameras, to games, to tapping the Internet, the handsets themselves have become more and more complex. And the cellphones are sold at locations where sales help ranges from nonexistent, such as on, to very limited, via cellphone stores where sales personnel receive a modicum of training. Cingular conducted a 28 U.S. city tour open to customers of any wireless carrier targeting at least 1 million consumers with vans outfitted to demonstrate advanced cellphone features such as text messaging.

Kyo 8

The research also yielded the "Kyo 8," eight key phone features that will be found in all Kyocera phones, all designed from the ground up to have the easiest to use, most intuitive interface in the marketplace with a goal of replicating Apple Computer's eMac, sold without a manual. The basic eight features include voice mail, caller ID, text messaging, silent mode, speed dial, address book, and, to address a surprise research finding, an alarm clock feature. Additional features will be added in various models.

To implement the simple message internally, Kyocera over a six-month period designed a corporate manifesto with dictums such as "We believe that cutting-edge is not supposed to hurt" and "Anyone can make a simple thing complicated; it takes a genius to make a complicated thing simple." The company also trained 56 designated "brand agents" in various departments to conduct "simplicity summits." The simple message "has to be spread virally, it has to be organic and it has to grow," Mr. McGuire said.

The external face of the simplicity rebranding process consists of outdoor ads in four U.S. and three Canadian cities breaking in July, followed by humorous TV in the fall in the U.S. and Latin America. Independent Vitro Robertson, San Diego, is the agency. The campaign backs Kyocera' s Koi 1.2-megapixel camera phone, which allows for downloading and playing 3D games and multimedia content, as well as the SoHo, developed from the ground up under the new simplicity positioning.

The $20 million global campaign comes at a time when other cellphone manufacturers are beginning to take stock of their marketing efforts in light of the more than $1 billion being spent on marketing by wireless service providers, threatening to render cellphones themselves commodities. Nokia, for example, has begun a business-to-business effort under the "connecting people" tag. Samsung is conducting a global agency review. LG has a new Life is Good with LG Electronics brand positioning. Motorola's Moto campaign has positioned it has hip and fashionable.

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