But thanks to early bets on Android and aggressive ad spending, HTC has in record time become a brand to be reckoned with and made Interbrand's Top 100 Brands list for the first time this year.
HTC sold the most smartphones in the U.S. in the third quarter, more than Apple or Samsung, according to tech analyst Canalys. HTC shipped 5.7 million units in the U.S. under its own brand, nearly one-quarter of all smartphones sold during the period. Still dabbling in its old model, HTC also sold an estimated 70,000 phones under T-Mobile's brand.
Its ascent began in late 2009, when the Taiwanese manufacturer hired ad agency Deutsch, Los Angeles, for its first national brand campaign. It was bowing the brand at a time when "smartphone" was synonymous with such shiny brands as Apple and BlackBerry.
The first work came out under the "You" banner to put people, rather than technology, at the center of its message. Having undergone some evolution since, "You" has stayed central to HTC's message, with the company pulling in real people, such as a Canadian internet-sensation child singer and a bamboo-bike maker from Los Angeles, not actors, into its more recent spots. HTC also works with agencies Fathom for experiential marketing and Waggener Edstrom for PR.
Prior to that first campaign, the company spent a mere $2 million in measured U.S. media domestically. Last year, HTC spent $65 million in U.S. measured media, according to Kantar Media. Just through August this year, it has already spent more than $81 million.
"You have to fight every day for market- and mind-share," Mr. Maron said.