HTC takes swipes at Samsung's Galaxy S4, unleashes aggressive guerilla marketing

HTC promised to be more aggressive in its marketing to counter the likes of Samsung Electronics and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)--and that attitude was in full display in HTC's reaction to Samsung's unveiling of its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4. 

HTC's president of global sales, Jason Mackenzie, gave several interviews knocking the Galaxy S4 and touting HTC's new flagship product, the One. Mackenzie also mocked Samsung's presentation of the GS4, which used a lounge-in-cheek Broadway-style production to highlight the smartphone's features.

"Watching the presentation, it looks like they invested a lot in marketing instead of innovation," Mackenzie told CNET.

On Twitter, Mackenzie sent a tweet mocking Samsung's presentation: " off-Broadway is this production?" and used the hash tag "#theNextBigFlop" to tweak Samsung's "The Next Big Thing" slogan.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion," Ryan Bidan, director of marketing for Samsung Telecommunications America, told CNET. Bidan anchored most of Samsung's presentation.

Separately, HTC CMO Benjamin Ho, through HTC's public relations firm, sent out a statement calling the GS4 "more of the same." He said Samsung's "plastic" design for the GS4 "pales in comparison to the all-aluminum unibody HTC One."

"HTC remains the best option for those people looking for the best technology wrapped in premium design," Ho said. "Our customers want something different from the mainstream, who appear to be the target for the Galaxy. Our customers want original cutting-edge technology, mouth-watering design and a premium feel from their mobiles, which is why we created the HTC One."

Additionally, HTC had representatives outside of Samsung's launch event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City handing out snacks like Pringles chips and hot cocoa to journalists waiting to enter. The HTC representatives, in a bit of guerrilla marketing, also let journalists demo the HTC One and passed out coupons offering $100 to those who wanted to trade in their devices for the One.

Taken together, the actions represent the fulfillment of a vow Mackenzie made in a recent interview with FierceWireless that HTC would be "a lot more aggressive in our communication" and would not stop marketing when the GS4 rolled out. Last year HTC and many other companies were crushed under the weight of Samsung's marketing for the Galaxy S III, losing both sales and momentum. Samsung spent $401 million advertising its phones in the United States, outpacing Apple's $333 million, according to data from ad research and consulting firm Kantar Media cited in the Wall Street Journal.

The One and GS4 will go head-to-head in the market. HTC is shipping the One starting in early April after a manufacturing hiccup and Samsung plans to begin rolling out the GS4 in April as well. For now, Samsung is in the driver's seat as the world's largest smartphone and handset maker by volume and HTC is struggling to reverse declining year-over-year sales.

For more:
- see this CNET article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Engadget article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this TMoNews article

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