In 2013, US legislators called Chinese mobile telecommunications manufacture Huawei a “national security threat” and sparked off a White House-ordered investigation. Although this review found no evidence and was primarily concerned with Huawei’s networking equipment, it damaged the brand in the eyes of many Americans. Since then, Huawei have been concentrating on the engineering of their products and paying much less attention to the consumer branding and positioning. This is one of the reasons why the major US carriers don’t currently sell Huawei branded smartphones on their websites. When asked, none would reveal if they have been in talks to introduce Huawei. There are signs that things are changing: Huawei have been talking about their plans for expansion into North America, which include traditional advertising, online promotion and sports team sponsorship. We’ve already seen Huawei promote the new Honor 6 Plus ‘phone New York Times Square and sponsorship deals with British football (soccer) club Arsenal, Indian cricket teams and Australian rugby clubs.
One of the challenges facing Huawei is to try to move away from the traditional reputation that Chinese handsets have in America: cheap and built down to the price. Huawei’s change in marketing approach is an important shift for the company. And this is where the new Huawei Watch drops into place; although Huawei’s smartphones do not look especially cheap, the Watch looks decidedly premium. This should not be a surprise as Huawei employed a team of watch designers to help it produce the Watch. Huawei will use the Watch to spearhead plans to sell products through US carriers and online marketplaces, including Amazon and of course, it’s US direct sales website, gethuawei.com. Huawei is hoping that their premium design device will have customers asking at carriers and marketplaces for the device, rather than the company putting a request in to sell it.
Still, Huawei has a lot of ground to make up. Their current US market exposure is less than 1% despite solid smartphones that have received generally positive reviews and are attractively priced. Competitor ZTE has over 6% in the US marketplace thanks to deals with second tier carriers (such as Boost Mobile) and this is one business model that Huawei may also adopt. However, the US is considered a tough market with high barriers to entry thanks to Apple and Samsung’s dominance: devices are compared with the two leaders, who rightly or wrongly are considered to be in their own class. Huawei’s charm offensive will have to tackle this wall; a spokesman for the company said that Huawei have a campaign to “normalize” perception of Huawei across the world, which presumably includes getting away from the 2013 spying allegation.
Do you use a Huawei device and if so, what do you think of it? Do you enjoy the features and benefits, and was it significantly less expensive than the comparable Samsung or Apple device? Let us know in the comments below.