Examining This Season’s Dark Horse: How Motorola
Used Its Perceived Weaknesses to Its Advantage with
Elaine B. Coleman, Ph.D.
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Published November 2009. © 2009 Interpret, LLC
Examining This Season’s Dark Horse: How Motorola Used Its Perceived
Weaknesses to Its Advantage with the Droid
Catalyst: The initial launch and subsequent commotion of the Motorola Droid surprised the industry at
large. Its strong awareness and reception from smartphone buyers suggests that the revived brand took
a unique approach to establishing itself in a new market beyond the extensive marketing campaign.
1) What key consumer preferences allowed the Droid to thrive within the Verizon customer base?
2) How did Motorola leverage conflicting perceptions of its brand to best position the Droid?
3) To what extent should vendors partner with carriers when planning the product portfolio?
Interpret Insight: According to Interpret’s MobileTrax report, Motorola balanced its perceived
advantages and detractions to effectively launch its signature handset, the Droid. The device appealed
to a Verizon audience that cared less about an attractive phone (36%) and associated Motorola most
prominently with practicality (34%) and simplicity (32%).
“Attractiveness” carries different weight among the top four carriers’ subscribers.
During the second quarter of 2009, the respective launches of the Palm Pre and Apple iPhone 3GS
mesmerized both the mobile phone industry and the public at large. In particular, the Pre was the first
phone to potentially rival the functionality and critical acclaim of the iPhone. With all the media
attention and consumer interest, the Pre significantly heightened expectations. First, it firmly
established that any phone hoping to rival the industry leader needed to bring an additional capability to
the market that uniquely improved the user experience (with their “Deck of Cards” multi-tasking
interface). Second, it quietly emphasized that the phone must have a striking design.
Both smartphone handsets emphasized style and functionality, but there was particular focus on how
the newest entrant (the Pre) was a highly polished, smooth and pocketable device. However, out of all
the carriers, Verizon’s subscribers attributed the least amount of importance to having an “attractive-
looking” phone. With Sprint and AT&T having already created exclusive partnerships with their more
sophisticated handsets, it was Verizon’s choice to offer a phone of equal allure or reject the notion
Leveraging a mobile brand’s perceived weaknesses and turning them into strengths.
Motorola practically launched the handset market for Americans with its definitive RAZR brand, but
among smartphone intenders it showed relatively low traction in key markers such as stylishness and
power. Among Verizon smartphone intenders, Apple and RIM’s BlackBerry were rated the highest for
giving off an impression of sophistication, power and style. In comparison, Motorola’s key strengths
were its practic