Motorola’s Blur & Brand Priority

 

Almost nothing in business shocks me like a CEO stating, with all seriousness, that fixing his company’s brand is not a top priority. Sadly, I hear this irresponsible refrain more frequently than you can fathom.

Such a preposterous utterance means, of course, that he consciously and willingly accepts customer confusion and a needlessly high cost of sales. Are you listening, boardmembers and shareholders?

On September 10, 2009, at GigaOM’s Mobilize 09 conference in San Francisco, Motorola’s co-CEO, Sanjay Jha, announced his company’s new CLIQ wireless phone. According to a recent article in Fortune, the audience couldn’t instantly grasp Jha’s words: a monumental branding failure.

Two excerpts from Jessi Hempel’s article, specific to CLIQ’s branding failure, stand out for me:

  • The mood quickly turned to disappointment. After describing two upcoming phones, [Sanjay] Jha demonstrated only one: a smartphone with a slide-out keyboard, a touchscreen, and software that pulls together different social-networking sites. If the device was cool-looking, the audience couldn’t tell. It was barely visible in Jha’s hand as he waved it aloft. Then, he announced the full name: Cliq with Motoblur. (It will be branded “Dext with Motoblur” outside the US) Huh? “So, is ‘blur’ the name of the phone or the software?” a woman in the back row asked. With so much riding on its new handsets, such confusion spells trouble for Motorola.
  • Jha himself admitted it took analysts and reviewers more than 15 minutes before they understood the value of Cliq.

 
Overspending on Sales

Confusion. Taking more than 15 minutes (should be a maximum of 15 seconds!) to grasp a value proposition. My friends, these are the hallmarks of branding failure.

Why do CEOs make this fundamental branding error, over and over again? Three reasons: 1) ascribe low priority to branding, 2) myopic focus on product instead of value, 3) belief that salespeople will compensate for poor messaging (see Branding Basics).

In other words, CEOs who pay lip service to branding will inflate the cost of sales and consequently pay the price of lower profits.
 
Rx from The WhiteNoise Doctor

Because Motorola didn’t make branding top priority when introducing CLIQ, assuming gadgetry and hucksterism would carry the day, it has wasted more time and shareholder cash while its relevance dwindles further — a Motoblunder.

Coincidentally, because blur and white noise are analogous, Motoblur will become an apt moniker for Motorola’s future.

Let this be a lesson to any CEO who still believes that salespeople can sell confusion, that fixing his company’s brand is not top priority.

POSTSCRIPT: Google to Buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5B

 

About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.

 

© 2009 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

 

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