Q&A: Motorola's Top Marketer Aims to Break the Smartphone Mold

Adrienne Hayes Talks Reshaping the Brand, Ownership Changes and Marketing Watches

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Adrienne Hayes, senior VP-global marketing and communications, Motorola
Adrienne Hayes, senior VP-global marketing and communications, Motorola

Motorola practically invented the smartphone. Now, as the company changes hands -- and fights to regain some of its once dominant market share -- Motorola's chief marketer wants to reinvent advertising in the category.

Adrienne Hayes joined Motorola in May 2013 to lead communications, public relations and social media, when the handset-maker was owned by Google. For the prior eight years, she worked at Edelman in New York, spending the last two as head of consumer-marketing accounts. That high-pressure expertise has proved helpful. In January, Google said it was selling Motorola to Lenovo. Four months later, Ms. Hayes stepped into the CMO role at Motorola, as senior VP-global marketing and communications, when Bill Morgan departed.

Just five years years ago, more than a quarter of all U.S. handsets bore the Moto logo. As of this past July, its share of smartphone sales sunk below 6%, according to comScore.

But Motorola is on the rebound. During its period of ownership limbo, the company released a new flagship phone, Moto X, and a wearable device, Moto 360, both to largely positive reviews. Its latest Droid device, a partnership with Verizon, is expected to arrive soon. After the Lenovo deal closes (expected this year), the Motorola brand will be linked with an established consumer electronics manufacturer, which could help it expand its global footprint.

Under Google, the Motorola brand recorded $190 million in media spending in 2013, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. Its primary U.S. creative agency is Droga5.

In an interview at her Sunnyvale, Calif., office, Ms. Hayes spoke about her brand strategy, the company's approach to its smartwatch, and departing from smartphone marketing norms. The interview has been lightly edited.

Advertising Age: Your background is in public relations, a departure from other CMOs at smartphone companies. How does that affect your approach?

Adrienne Hayes: I'm definitely very keen on telling stories and engagement. Looking at things from a storyline that takes a 360 degree perspective. You said we've launched some new spots. I guess I don't even think of them as spots; I think of them as chapters.

So, the different chapters that we are opening tell this continuous narrative about the products, about the brand. Everything we do is a different chapter in the product story. And thinking more intuitively and instinctively about a reputation and about a personality, versus just about black-and-white, profit-and-loss marketing.

Ad Age: O.K., so what's the Moto personality?

Ms. Hayes: There's a couple different qualities. One of them is about being more accessible and being more inclusive -- really about being a brand that's for everybody and anybody. One of the new campaigns that we've recently launched is "Choose Choice." There's really no right or wrong, as long as it's right for you.

There are plenty of people in my social circles that use an iPhone. That's not wrong. But there's billions of people on this earth. There's plenty of room for different smartphone brands, including our own.

You won't see us pursue a campaign that says we're better than our competitors, which is pretty much the norm for the industry. It's getting pretty predictable. And we're just not going to pursue campaigns like that. That would be the antithesis of the personality that we're creating.

The smartwatch [Moto360] works with all Android phones. And we don't control the software; Google does. We're always exploring. The more we can manipulate those relationships, the more we will. If we could make it compatible with iOS, there's nothing that would stop us from wanting to do that. If we could control it, we're willing to be that open.

We watch what the competitors do, but we don't let it dictate how we market.

"We're not assigning 'smartwatch' to it; that's an industry term. We're just calling it a 'watch,' because we really do believe it is a watch for our times today."

Ad Age: How do you approach a media mix? Oddly enough, mobile companies are among the most conservative advertisers, sticking largely to traditional print, TV and outdoor.

Ms. Hayes: Motorola has totally been in that habitual cycle. It's definitely something we've broken out of over the past year. We've shifted a lot of resources toward digital, social. And we're very public-relations-led too. It's no surprise that I'm sitting here because we have leaned into public relations quite a bit from, again, a reputation and storytelling perspective.

We have not done print in probably a year. We do spot television when we think it makes the most sense. But we're not television-led, in terms of campaigns and creative. We sell direct. For us, that's really important. We opened our own e-commerce channel this year. We're seeing more and more people willing to buy direct; that's a big behavior change in the U.S.

Ad Age: As you go to market, whose market share are you focusing on taking? Other smaller Android rivals? Or going after Samsung and Apple?

Ms. Hayes: Everyone should aspire to be number one. Of course we do. It's just a matter of how long it takes us to get there. We were number one seven years ago. We could be number one seven years from now, the way this industry works. There's always that possibility. And we are testament to that fact. It's a very volatile industry.

"This industry takes itself pretty seriously, with all its speeds and feeds. These devices, while very important to people, are definitely put up on a pedestal as life-changing. A lot of people just have fun with their devices."

Ad Age: Your former owner, Google, has moved a great deal of creative work in-house; Apple and Samsung do the same. What's your approach to agency partnerships?

Ms. Hayes: We're probably a ways away from bringing the creativity in-house. I rather like -- and this may be bias, coming from the agency side -- having the outside inspiration. It's really easy when you are in a bubble, in a certain area, Silicon Valley, in our case -- it's really easy to get into the echo chamber, get way to caught up on what's happening on the 101 [northern California highway] vs. what's happening in Des Moines and Chicago.

Ad Age: And what about the Moto 360 watch? I notice you're not wearing one.

Ms. Hayes: Because I'm charging it. Not because I had to! [laughs] I was traveling yesterday.

What I will say about battery life is that these are early stage products. It's a mini-computer people are wearing on their wrist. If you use it according to suggested usage patterns, in the ambient mode, you can get through a pretty full day.

Ad Age: Do you think it will be a category like smartphones? How do you promote this sort of device?

Ms. Hayes: I definitely think it's going to become mainstream. I think we're reaching that tipping point this year, and this holiday season. We certainly take a lot of pride in the look of ours. Getting to that more classic look and feel was key to breaking through that ceiling, not just being a Google Glass product.

In terms of how you market it, you market it like what it is. First and foremost, it's a watch. We're not assigning 'smartwatch' to it; that's an industry term. We're just calling it a 'watch,' because we really do believe it is a watch for our times today. It has to do more than just tell the time. But it's still a watch.

We're not trying to replace the luxury status time-pieces, the Rolexes. This is for people who haven't ever worn a watch. For people that have never worn a watch, this takes the all the information that you're checking on your phone a hundred times a day. This makes that so much more easy and streamlined and discreet.

Ad Age: Who are your top competitors for the Moto 360?

Ms. Hayes: Our competitors will ultimately be mainstream watchmakers. Maybe not the Rolexes of the world, but I'd say the $200, $100 watchmakers of the world.

Ad Age: So not Apple?

Ms. Hayes: Well, everyone falls into that category. Apple's pretty expensive. They are putting themselves into that luxury category. We don't want this to be a luxury product. It should be an everyday, mainstream product. Back to that idea of being accessible, being inclusive, not just being for the well-to-do.

Ad Age: How will you market that then? With traditional TV buys?

Ms. Hayes: We're going to do some fun stuff.

Ad Age: The Yo thing was interesting. [Edit: In August, Motorola launched the Moto 360 with a promotional giveaway on the messaging app Yo. It was criticized for not delivering on guarantees.]

Ms. Hayes: The Yo thing was interesting. The Yo thing didn't go exactly as planned. It was a fun experiment, which could have and should have gone better. But that's what happens when you're trying something entirely new. It was meant to be fun and different, and we're all about exploring new platforms.

Ad Age: What went wrong?

Ms. Hayes: The language was ambiguous. I think it misled people to think that there was another step to actually win. It should have been clearer. The execution could have been more streamlined. But the idea was right.

That's part of the brand personality that you'll start to see more and more. The idea of just being a bit more playful. This industry takes itself pretty seriously, with all its speeds and feeds. These devices, while very important to people, are definitely put up on a pedestal as life-changing. A lot of people just have fun with their devices. We want to be more playful in our approach as well.

That's another thing that we've been inspired by Google, to have a light-hearted personality. There's Google pixie-dust that is sprinkled about. And we've definitely been inspired in many ways by Google in how we behave. Also, having a pretty robust office here in Silicon Valley has also helped to shape that, too. That combination is what's helped completely transform Motorola, an 86-year old company, which was becoming a bit of a dinosaur, into a much more nimble, versatile player.

Ad Age: What about your incoming parent, Lenovo?

Ms. Hayes: They're not our parent yet. What I can say is that we're really optimistic about the new ownership, about what that does for us as a company -- and as a combined entity. Right off the bat, we're the number three smartphone maker in the world, once that acquisition is complete. They're number one in PCs, number two in tablets. It's a pretty lethal combination.

The reach, the supply chain, the complementary footprints, from west and east -- it's going to be a force to be reckoned with.

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