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Reading Quietly. HTC says Shhhh!

Quietly Brilliant? What do they mean? Is HTC perhaps secretly outstanding? Are we to think that HTC mobiles are sparklingly average? Or possibly they look glitteringly inconspicuous? What does the antithesis in this HTC tagline tell us about HTC and how does it help to understand how HTC wants to communicate its brand? As I un-knit my eyebrows I wonder, how do you read HTC?

Smartphone advertising is prone to smugness, knowing that it’s got a willing audience for the latest toy. But mobile marketeers mistakenly assume that we’re as fascinated with the product as the industry is fixated with itself. Not so, not for many of us anyway.  What HTC seems to be selling is not a mouthy little monster that’s constantly squawking at us to feed it attention pellets, but a serene little gizmo that hums Mogwai-like, patiently awaiting the next time we wish to be served. HTC is apparently about humility and putting people, not technology first.

This brand positioning pops up in another piece of textbook copywriting for HTCs YOU campaign: “You don’t need to get a phone, you need a phone that gets you.” Another antithesis: a clear contrast of the HTC philosophy with the how the other guy thinks. Brilliant! Mobile technology that’s an expression of you rather than fascinated with itself.  

We hear the voiceover say: “Because in the end, innovation doesn’t really matter, unless it does something that really matters to you”  (at this point, I’m starting to recognise a pattern in how the HTC copywriter works out what words would work, when she’s working with words).  This user-centered design, we’re told, cuts-the-consumer-mustard because your self-effacing little HTC phone only wants to do what you want to do. Bless it!

The idea of empowering people comes through in the copy and in the HTC script font and matching doodles. The pen is a tactile, intuitive tool which we wield with dexterity and ease.  Like all simple tools, the pen is a powerful extension of the hand.  And when things are simple, when we intuitively understand something, “It just makes HTC sense” (note the less-than-humble appropriation of the word sense).  By extending this notion, HTC can make what appears to be an entirely reasonable series of appeals to our common sense, rather than marketing claims for a product; such as, “You shouldn’t have to wait ages for the internet” or “You can hear it in your bag because it automatically rings louder”. Clever, clever! Being intuitive and seeming reasonable then are all part of being Quietly Brilliant. 

So, has the HTC brand totally killed the noise? Well, if you visit www.htc.com you certainly get a lot of clean, white space. Dig a little deeper and HTC doesn’t sound quite so modest.  Claims like: “Want to be entertained like never before?” and “impressive from every angle” don’t seem consistent with the Quietly Brilliant tone of voice. And what about those product names?  If HTC really want us to believe that they are Quietly Brilliant then okay, but from now on the HTC Sensation becomes the HTC Serene, the HTC Incredible becomes the HTC Nice, and the HTC Desire turns into the HTC Don’t-Mind-If-I-Do.

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