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'You can't think like a marketer any more': TCL on why marketers need to understand entire businesses


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

December 23, 2019 | 5 min read

TCL Corporation believes it is the right time to launch its own branded smartphones because its consumer electronics business is reaching a point of maturity where it is now an ecosystem of products, not just one single category.


TSL is no stranger to mobile phones as the owner of Blackberry and Palm. It is also the license owner of Alcatel.

In addition, through its sister company, TCL CSOT, the brand can also explore new product categories like foldable devices and wearable displays.

“With these new technologies, as well as the global expansion of 5G, it makes the most sense to introduce them under our TCL brand, especially when we consider these in the context of TCL’s wider artificial intelligence and Internet of things strategy which is the foundation of our forward-looking ecosystem,” Stefan Streit, the general manager of global marketing at TCL tells The Drum.

While the partially state-owned enterprise began life in China developing and selling household appliances, it is no stranger to mobile phones as the owner of Blackberry and Palm. It is also the license owner of Alcatel.

While Streit acknowledges that TCL does already have a “unique portfolio” of mobility brands, he says these are very specifically targeted at segments of the market that TCL-branded devices currently do not and in the future will not play in.

He is so not worried about taking on the likes of Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi in the consumer mobile market, whether in China or around the world.

“For us, we are able to market all our brands without having to worry about any confusion or crossover in our efforts,” he explains.

“TCL is the only complete global consumer electronics brand from China, giving us a much more comprehensive platform to build from and the wider ecosystem of devices to engage with.”

To market its own branded smartphones, Streit says the biggest challenge TCL face as a global brand and global marketing team is that regionally consumers are all different.

This means that TCL has to constantly be thinking tactically about how best to reach consumers, especially when it is not spending hundreds of millions in marketing every year for the sake of keeping its products more affordable.

“We are future-proofing our marketing in two ways. Firstly, by looking more heavily at alternative marketing techniques, and leading with these over traditional media channels. Secondly, via our choice of agency partner,” he explains.

“We selected Fearlessly Frank over traditional agencies because they bring both innovation and marketing, with a longer-term strategic view of our world and a deeper understanding of how to bridge brand, marketing, product and sales to genuinely help us grow.”

He continues: “The idea of “future-proofing” is a bit self-serving because it assumes that consumer wants/needs and behaviours are not constantly changing. The best way our teams work to stay ahead of this is by taking the time to step back and remind ourselves that we’re all consumers as well – so what influences us today may not tomorrow. That drive to always be learning and critically examining our efforts is what we see as the best way to keep your teams and your marketing efforts nimble and fruitful.”

Streit believes a good balance is needed when it comes to working with agencies and says there is a focus on in-house teams but also agencies to support the brand. He points out agencies provide a critical outside POV on its brand and business that ultimately makes its execution stronger and more effective.

“The best advice I can give is to not think just like a marketer. Today marketers need to be much more immersed in every part of the business to be effective,” he says.

“Forging those relationships with other internal and external teams so as to best understand the complete business is likely the best way to stand out from other marketers.”


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