Honing The Razr Edge

Motorola stops trying to reinvent the wheel

Motorola's (MOT ) unveiling of a portfolio of new phones on May 15 was the usual hypefest. In a loft-like dance studio in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, Chief Executive Edward J. Zander, bathed in a red and purple glow, stood between two large video screens beaming images of the new handsets. The usual celebrity endorsers were on video, in this case Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas and soccer heartthrob David Beckham. Zander uttered the typical platitudes: We want to put the "wow" back into the products.

Same old, same old. But behind the scenes, Motorola has embarked on a very different marketing strategy from its previous effort. Its architect is a former Heinz and Proctor & Gamble veteran named Kenneth C. "Casey" Keller Jr., who joined Motorola last year as the chief marketing officer. Keller believes that Motorola failed in its previous efforts to capitalize on the red-hot Razr, and he intends to change that, with an all-out branding campaign.

One of the first things Keller told Zander was that he should move beyond the obsession with catchy four-letter, vowel-skipping names: the Slvr, Pebl, Krzr, and so on. The notion had been to echo the Razr name, but the other phones hadn't come close to matching the Razr's success. Keller knew from his years at P&G and Heinz that more often than not there's no reason to reinvent the wheel. This, after all, is the man who won a Grand Marketer of the Year Award from Brandweek Magazine for tweaking Heinz Ketchup for kids by making it green and putting it in a squeezable bottle. Keller's instincts were telling him to build a sub-brand around the Razr name.

Yes, the phone was by then selling at a deep discount. But Motorola expected before long to move 100 million of the phones, and Zander felt Keller could give the Razr name iPod-like resonance. Surveys bore him out. One found that 59% of Razr users were "highly likely" to buy another one (even though the original phone was hard to use). Another found that phone users were willing to pay twice as much for a new Razr as they would for a similar Nokia or Samsung.

So the Razr2 was born--and Motorola wisely packed it with the latest technology and built it even sleeker than the original. "If we have to create a new identity every time we launch a new phone it's hard," Keller explains. "It becomes a more rational purchase for the consumer if we say 'here's how we're making what you love even better.'" Beckham, considered in many quarters an arbiter of high style, will be a Razr spokesman.

BUILDING STREET CRED

A riskier bet is Motorola's decision to build a second sub-brand around the latest iteration of the Rokr music phone. Risky because unlike the Razr, the Rokr was a major disappointment. Developed with Apple Inc. (AAPL ), it failed to catch on because it held only 100 songs. Encouraged that the new phone would be a serious music player--it stores 10 times as many songs and has better fidelity--Keller and team decided to push its capabilities hard. To build street cred for the phone, Keller's team hired Fergie to appear in Rokr ads. And they developed a new logo with a funky urban look that they hope telegraphs energy, movement, mobility.

In what amounts to a real departure for Motorola, Keller hopes to build a branded ecosystem of accessories around the phones. He won't say much about this but the new Rokr provides a clue. It will be packaged with new wireless Bluetooth stereo headsets, dubbed Rokr S9.

If much of this sounds like Marketing 101, you're right. But, remember, this is a company where the branding people long deferred to the engineers. Keller's predecessor, the late Geoffrey Frost, gave Motorola's marketers a voice. Now Keller must keep the momentum going. As his boss, Zander, says: "We're a consumer company. We needed to step up."

By Roger O. Crockett

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