Huawei brand strategy / positioning case study

BrandStruck
Huawei Brand Strategy Analysis
Huawei
ABOUT

Category:
Electronics & technologymobile phones, tablets, wearables, communications equipment

Owner of the brand:
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

Key competitors:
Apple, Samsung, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, ZTE

Brand essence

Bringing digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world.

Brand values

Innovation, perseverance, efficiency.

Brand character

Powerful, confident, effective, down-to-earth, reliable.

Dominating archetype
EVIDENCE
Comments
1

Huawei is one of the world’s most well-known Chinese technology brands. Its sales are higher outside of China than in China, and the company has truly global ambitions. To its consumers, Huawei is primarily a producer of smartphones, tablets and wearables, but their remit is much wider. Huawei was set up by Ren Zhengfei, who was an engineer in the People’s Liberation Army in China. This was where he gained experience in networking technology and used it to build what is now the largest manufacturer of telecoms equipment[1], serving three groups of customers: end consumers (smartphones, tablets, etc.), businesses (switches, routers, servers, storage and services such as enterprise networking or cloud computing) and telecom carriers (wireless and fixed networks, carrier software, cloud-enabled digital operations, etc.).

2

Huawei’s corporate brand is unique in many ways. Huawei is a privately owned business, in which almost 99% of the shares belong to the company’s employees[2]. It has a rare CEO rotating system, according to which three executives rotate as CEOs every six months. Its corporate values are based on the pillars of Chinese collectivism – collaboration, openness and shared success – rather than secrecy and fierce competition (as with other technology brands). Huawei is positioned as a company which started from nothing and has achieved success in a relatively short amount of time thanks to hard work and perseverance (instilled in the company’s culture by its founder). It is also seen as a true leader of innovation, spending a substantial share of its revenue on research and development, hiring primarily engineers and funding research at universities and external research institutions.

3

Huawei started its smartphone business by selling cheap, often white-label handsets. However, most of its shipments are currently mid- and high-priced. One of the keys to Huawei’s success is the fact that it produces every element of the wireless infrastructure. Thanks to this fact, it has great negotiating power with telecom carriers, which receive discounts on smartphones when buying communications equipment from Huawei and which are thus more willing to sell them. Fortune Magazine, in their profile on Huawei, used the following metaphor: “It’s as if General Motors had paved the Interstate Highway System, then started selling cars.”[3] At the moment, the biggest barrier to Huawei’s growth is its very limited presence in the US market, where the American government has been blocking the company’s expansion plans.

4

While the Huawei corporate brand is unique and consistent in emphasizing the ethics of hard work, perseverance, efficiency and innovation, its consumer communication is more heterogeneous. Huawei seems to be testing various types of messages and tonalities to build the widest possible audience by attracting different segments. Its campaigns have highlighted, among other things, its position as a challenger (e.g., “Nova and Nova Plus: The Gift”[4]), its design-related features (e.g., “The Art of Craftsmanship”[5]) and camera quality (e.g., “Huawei P30 Captures Your Summer”[6]), as well as speed, durability and performance-related benefits, which seem to be most in line with what the brand stands for (e.g., “#Perfect10 in Imperfect World”[7]). More recently, the brand places the strongest emphasis on two features of its smartphones: the camera and the battery.[8].

5

Huawei uses the narrative characteristics of a few brand archetypes, but two seem to be prevailing: the Hero, as the company focuses on perseverance, performance and efficiency, and the Sage, as it builds on its expert credentials in communications equipment and supports research and science. In the smartphones category, Huawei still acts as a challenger (the Outlaw).

Tagline
Most important campaigns

1. “Huawei Gentle Monster Eyewear II” (2021)

2. “Together In Just One Tap” (2020)

3. “Huawei P30 Captures Your Summer” (2019)

4. “Meet The Huawei P30 Series” (2019)

5. “The Art Of Craftsmanship” (2017)

6. “#Perfect10 in Imperfect World” (2017)

Official brand statement:

Founded in 1987, Huawei is a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices. We have more than 194,000 employees, and we operate in more than 170 countries and regions, serving more than three billion people around the world.

Our vision and mission is to bring digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world. To this end, we will drive ubiquitous connectivity and promote equal access to networks; bring cloud and artificial intelligence to all four corners of the earth to provide superior computing power where you need it, when you need it; build digital platforms to help all industries and organizations become more agile, efficient, and dynamic; redefine user experience with AI, making it more personalized for people in all aspects of their life, whether they’re at home, in the office, or on the go.[9]

Interesting facts:

Huawei in Chinese means “Chinese achievement”.[10]

Huawei is believed to be a company which, to a large extent, has helped Africa to revolutionize its mobile telephone market thanks to its low prices and high effectiveness.[11]

Must-reads

1. Interview with Huawei Global Chief Brand Officer, Andrew Garrihy
R. Stewart, “Huawei’s Top Marketer On Fusing ‘The Best Of The West With The Best Of The East’”, The Drum, Jan 2021,
https://www.thedrum.com/news/2021/01/27/huawei-s-top-marketer-fusing-the-best-the-west-with-the-best-the-east

2. Marketing Week on Huawei’s approach to marketing
E. Hammett, “Huawei Says Marketing Is As Important As Product In Race To Catch Samsung”, Marketing Week, Feb 2019,
https://www.marketingweek.com/huawei-marketing-product-samsung/

3. Huawei’s marketing case study
M. Roll, “Huawei – Transforming A Chinese Technology Business To A Global Brand”, Martin Roll, Feb 2018,
https://martinroll.com/resources/articles/strategy/huawei-transforming-chinese-technology-business-global-brand/

4. Fortune on Huawei’s global expansion
S. Cendrowski, “Is The World Big Enough For Huawei?”, Fortune, Feb 2017,
http://fortune.com/huawei-china-smartphone/

Sources:
References:
  1. A. Burkitt-Gray, “Huawei Becomes Biggest Equipment Vendor”, Global Telecom Business, Apr 2016, https://www.globaltelecomsbusiness.com/article/b11vy66gvv4pz2/huawei-becomes-biggest-equipment-vendor
  2. D. Sevastopulo, “Huawei Pulls Back The Curtain On Ownership Details”, Financial Times, Feb 2014, https://www.ft.com/content/469bde20-9eaf-11e3-8663-00144feab7de
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=60&v=m1tiO8st1E8
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCRBssIbBG0
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXnYpSSIIR0
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4y_9_02mqE
  8. S. Vizard, “How Huawei’s Marketing Helped It Become The Number Two Smartphone Brand”, Marketing Week, Sep 2018, https://www.marketingweek.com/huawei-marketing-strategy/
  9. https://www.huawei.com/en/about-huawei/corporate-information
  10. 10 Interesting Facts About Huawei”, Android Authority, Aug 2016, http://www.androidauthority.com/huawei-interesting-facts-709696/
  11. The Company That Spooked The World”, The Economist, Aug 2012, http://www.economist.com/node/21559929
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