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Motorola banks on 'experimental' retargeting to 'reawaken consumers'

Motorola is to adopt “experimental” retargeting methods to move beyond the clumsiness usually associated with the technique and “reawaken consumers” to the innovation powering the former mobile phone leader.

Motorola's new Moto X smartphone

The smartphone maker is sharpening the placement of its online ads in the hope of boosting relevancy in an industry where it has struggled to keep pace with shifting consumer demands.

Successful ad retargeting has helped kickstart a comeback, according to Motorola, as evidenced by shipments rising 11.7 million in the third quarter compared to 2.5 million a year ago.

It is now looking to “more ingenious” retargeting methods to maintain the sales momentum, exploiting the expansion of personalisation and automated advertising.

The experimental approach refers to the company’s use of Google retargeting tools yet to come to market as a result of the “great relationship” it still has with its former owner, Motorola has stated.

Google is currently rolling out ads that automatically insert products related to those users who viewed them on a website, meaning advertisers create one ad that can be personalised automatically right when an ad impression is served.

For Motorola, the potential is around targeting based on what people are about to do - not what they have just done. Customers have previously been targeted using their love of customising products – a key part of Motorola’s revamped marketing strategy – with ads targeted to those who had customised their trainers on Nike’s site.

Speaking to The Drum, Motorola’s senior marketing director for EMEA and APAC Marcus Frost, said the Nike tactic is an example of how it plans to “upweight” investment in online ads. With the Nokia brand being wound down by Microsoft, he admitted its advertising needs to work harder to overcome the “massive” challenge it faces establishing the brand against its larger rivals.

“We’re testing intricate ways to target consumers at the time when they’re in shopping mode and most likely to be making purchase decisions,” added Frost. Most of the online ads will be served in western markets such as the UK and the US, balancing the traditional TV and print channels used in India.

He added: “When you think about the consumer in their normal day they are not focused on smartphones. Our marketing strategy is about the power to choose so it’s about looking at other aspects of their lives when they can customise things.

"They might be having another experience where they get another consistent ad maybe with a little twist on it. Those are the ingenious ways that we’re able to be very targeted in terms of delivering messages at the right time to consumers in the right place.”

Motorola’s online ads are part of a wider marketing plan that also extends to PR and in-store in just 10 markets including the UK and India. Despite the limited scale of Motorola's marketing in comparison to Apple and Samsung’s marketing, it credits the leaner strategy for starting to “reawaken consumers” to the brand and its Moto X, Moto G, Moto E and Nexus smartphones over the past 12 months.

Additionally, the stripped back approach allows the business to remain fleet of foot in trying to identify the most effective channels to allocate budgets across a product range that spans the whole market, from entry level to top tier.

Future marketing efforts will continue the product-focused direction of recent campaigns but will also look to establish a “sense of vibrancy” around the brand.

Where Motorola’s previous ads tried to appeal to a “specific type of person”, added Frost, upcoming creative will make its products feel more accessible by talking about the different experiences on each smartphone. The shift will extend to the company’s Moto 360 smartwatch as well as foster bigger promotions for the “Moto Maker” customisation feature for the Moto X.

Motorola’s ‘Choose Choice’ brand positioning is highlighted by Droga 5 in a new campaign for the Moto X handset.

“Motorola is all about the ‘power to choose’ and as we move forward you’ll see how it becomes the common DNA across all our campaigns,” said Frost. “We’ll clearly communicate the differences in our models, which are all targeted propositions for consumers and are already getting early traction in the categories they operate in”.

Advocacy will be key to the success of Motorola’s plan with it relying on word of mouth to offset its fledgling paid media strategy. The smartphone maker is ramping up its video and experiential outlay to lift awareness in 2015, while also furthering sponsorship discussions with a “number of interested parties”.

Frost said: “That aspect of paid digital is still in the innovation and experimental camp for us. What we’re absolutely confident in is our ability to successfully amplify the positive way we’re being spoken about through PR and various social media mechanisms. It is difficult to continue to keep that challenger [brand] spirit as well as keep listening to consumers in 2015 and beyond.”

Next year marks a key period for the business. It is when the company will look to make up the most ground in its return to profitability. Lenovo vowed to return Motorola to profitability within 18 months after it completed its $1.82bn purchase of the smartphone business from Google in October.

The deal makes Lenovo the third biggest smartphone maker after Apple and Samsung and is aimed at bolstering the company’s presence in Asia. For the most part, the developed mature world will be Motorola driven, the company has said, while emerging markets will be Lenovo-driven.

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