Handset brand battle breaks out on design

ASIA-PACIFIC: Mobile phone manufacturers - driven by fierce competition and fickle consumers - have come out with a raft of high-end phones that are shifting the handset brand war from killer applications to design philosophy.

Motorola has strengthened its product portfolio with the ultra-thin Razr V3, while rival handset manufacturer Nokia has unveiled its 'Deco' autumn/winter collection in the region. Sony Ericsson has also put its latest 'imaging, entertainment and connectivity' product, 700i, on store shelves in Asia.

The Nokia fashion 'Collection for fall/winter 2004' will expand the brand's high-end product offering, 'Neo Deco', which is characterised by bold, art deco designs.

Nokia is promoting it as a fashion line in a bid to persuade consumers to upgrade existing handsets to the latest designs.

Motorola too is banking on form to win over consumers. The brand launched an integrated campaign incorporating Ogilvy & Mather-developed outdoor, television, online, event sponsorship, joint promotions and PR to create buzz around the V3, which carries a price tag of S$1,380 (US$822).

Neil Stewart, Sydney-based marketing director for South Asia, Motorola, said: "This is a super thin phone that's got a camera, video playback, MP3 and all the other usual features. We went with the Razr name because it looks like a cutthroat blade from the side.

"But to promote or advertise this phone, we had to stand out not just with the functions but the design. And, as well as having the phone seen at the right places and parties and associated with the right brands (like Club 21 and D&G), we went in for some creative media buys."

Universal McCann, which handles Motorola's media account in Southeast Asia, picked ad space on the Qantas queue belts - "a super thin space" - at airport terminals to communicate the 'thin' element of V3.

"Consumers in Hong Kong and Singapore in particular are always looking to change to new, better models. In other markets the (upgrade rate) is very low and (consumers) are often tied to long term contracts," added Stewart.

Sony Ericsson's media agency MEC, meanwhile, also went in for "innovative" media buys, which covered a short 'self-playing' video on the web, a 'moving picture' print ad and a U-shaped ad in the Asian Wall Street Journal.

"For a multifunctional phone like the Sony Ericsson, we needed varied platforms to demonstrate the 700i's capabilities," said Arthur Huang, director of marketing and communications at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.

"This strategy lends tangible demonstration of the K700i through its innovative use of media."

The brand was shown in moving pictures through print ads in Time magazine, which used three consecutive right-hand strip ads to create a flip book effect. The web (video) ad is running on Hotmail and soccernet.com for the Malaysia and Thai markets.

- Additional reporting by Amy White.

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