ZTE are one of the largest cell ‘phone manufacturers in the world, ranked fourth across the world but their penetration in the United States market is much less than this: they’re not in the top five recognised brands! However, things are changing because compared with 2013, ZTE has tripled it’s marketing budget for the United States of America and according to the Chief Executive Officer, Lixin Cheng, in a review with the Wall Street Journal, is starting to see dividends. Lixin says that ZTE are confident that they are finding the right recipe to build a brand and make consumers aware of their smartphone business. Lixin said: “The rule of our marketing investment is that, we invest in anything that can create direct interactions with consumers, either through social media or other digital media. That’s why we are working with NBA teams with a focus on social media and digital media.” He acknowledges that the larger Korean brands (without naming them, we believe he was referring to Samsung and LG) are spending a lot of money everywhere, but ZTE are taking a different approach. “Being a low-cost Chinese manufacturer can be a disadvantage but it can also be an advantage. People know that we can provide good products at affordable prices,” he said. This makes perfect sense: ZTE do not have the marketing clout to take on Samsung, but one of the problems with Samsung’s massive marketing budget is that their products and advertisements are so prevalent, they start to become the background!
Lixin talked about ZTE’s new agreement with the New York Knicks, which has given the brand extensive presence inside Madison Square Gardens. The deal includes access to the big screen inside the arena and digital signage outside. It’s expected that 600 million people will pass by the arena every year. “With Houston Rockets, we have already sold official Rockets smartphones made by ZTE. We have also featured some of the players in our promotional campaigns.” Now of course, ZTE has some work to do to boost direct sales to US customers but has only started pushing its own brand smartphones earlier this year. Lixin alluded to this by explaining that ZTE was in the long haul; they have to tread carefully because they have spent years building up relationships with all of the larger carrier and several of the smaller carriers, too. “We need to be in every single important market worldwide. And the U.S. is the leading telecom market in the world. We cannot ignore this market. You cannot claim that you are a leading smartphone vendor in the world unless you have a significant foothold in the U.S.”
ZTE’s origins in the developed market of manufacturing handsets for carriers reminds me of how HTC started out. Even as far as branching out into other operating systems as they are to be one of Microsoft’s newer Windows Phone partnerships. Let’s hope that they can learn from HTC’s mistakes, but meanwhile what do our readers think of their products? Do you like their verve with low cost combined with solid specification?