“I like to work with clients who are hell-bent on stealing market share,” declares Brian Collins. As executive director at Ogilvy & Mather and head of the firm’s Brand Integration Group (also known as BIG), Collins reinvents corporate brands: his client list includes Hershey’s chocolate, Coca-Cola, and Miller beer. He draws on Ogilvy & Mather’s advertising skills for part of that task but mainly counts on his tight-knit team of filmmakers, writers, sculptors, and design professionals to create everything from logos and packaging to promotional events. When Motorola came to BIG asking for a complete break from the past, Collins says, he faced the complicated task of transforming Motorola’s identity without succumbing to what he calls “the easy way out.”
Top marketing managers from the giant, Libertyville, Illinois-based electronics company first approached BIG in early 2000 because they were worried about the inroads that their Finnish arch rival, Nokia, was making in the $295 billion global mobile-phone market. Motorola’s phones continued to win plaudits for their innovative features and reliable technology, but Nokia had outdone Motorola by recognizing that phones had become fashion accessories. Nokia’s first coup was to allow customers to change cell-phone covers, matching the color and style to their mood, and the company was aggressively marketing its stylish image to make further gains.
Perhaps, mused Stuart Redsun, Motorola’s worldwide general manager of brand marketing, it was time to fight Nokia on its own battlefield. “What we were good at was designing and marketing something functional, and telling people how much more productive it would make them,” Redsun says. “We weren’t as innovative when it came to design.”
Collins, a gregarious 40-something in designer jeans and a collarless white cotton shirt, shudders when he remembers that Motorola was considering dumping its 75-year-old logo-a circle-enclosed M in black and white-in favor of something new. “The company already had a great logo,” he says. The “em-signia,” as it’s known, is “an elegant logo, with a futuristic retro quality,” Collins says. “Intuitively, we knew this was very recognizable, especially among the more mature consumers. Why spend millions developing a new logo when you can simply reanimate the one you already have?”
BIG’s challenge, Collins realized, would be finding a way to make Motorola appeal to younger, fashion-conscious consumers who, according to sales research, were among the biggest buyers of new mobile phones. To that end, Collins dispatched “audit teams” to China, Europe, and South America in quest of photos showing real people using their mobile phones. Upon return, the teams posted those pictures along with images reflecting contemporary culture and fashion, onto large, black-painted audit boards. They then sat down around the large Formica kitchen table that serves as the meeting place in Collins’s cluttered office (itself a paraphernalia-filled testimony to brand identity) to debate the next step.
The audit boards, Collins concluded, showed “visual cacophony,” a jumble of contrasting and clashing colors, textures, and patterns. Young people moved with ease in the environments on display, despite being bombarded by noisy advertisements and demands on their attention. But Collins also spotted signs of confusion and indecision among those very same consumers as they navigated retail spaces.
To help make Motorola’s products visible amid the urban chaos, Collins and his team determined that the design would need to be simple but colorful. Other technology companies might have opted for a minimalist look, but to distinguish Motorola from its rivals and from the busy retail outlets in which its products would be sold, the BIG team injected Motorola’s logo with a shot of color-27 different hues, ranging from fuchsia and burnt orange to deep blue. “We felt that saturated color was unique to Motorola and would make their products stand out,” Collins says.
Fay Tellefsen, creative director for Motorola’s personal communication division, recalls that business considerations did force some change in BIG’s original proposals for using color. Companies and government agencies, including fire and police departments, are big buyers of Motorola phones. Motorola honchos figured these consumer segments would balk at lime-green or crimson casing. “So we asked BIG to expand the palette to include blue-gray and other muted colors,” Tellefsen says.
BIG’s mission also included reworking the package design. Previously, Motorola’s phones had been sold in white boxes printed with photos of the phones and a jumble of technical data-nothing that con- veyed the fact that it contained a Motorola product. The BIG team devised new boxes dominated by one of the 27 colors, with the logo wrapped around the side so it could be seen in full only when two boxes were placed side by side. “You can stack the boxes up and it looks like a poster,” Collins says.
Motorola execs saw an impact right away. “It was amazing-I’d walk past a store and see managers had put our boxes in the window because they just looked so bright, so artistic,” says Tellefsen. “The Motorola products stood out and could be immediately identified.”
At the same time, Motorola’s R&D department was producing new phones, such as the V70 with rotating cover, that became de rigueur in the fashion crowd. Devices were assigned personality types for which the advertising for each phone would be targeted. “We saw in our audit research how people really live with their phones, so giving them a personality wasn’t much of a leap,” Collins says, adding that this intuitive move was supported by ethnographic research from elsewhere within Ogilvy & Mather. The BIG team came up with the idea of calling the devices (whether a phone, pager, or two-way radio) “Moto” rather than the more staid “Motorola.” The ads featured photos of distinctive character types-a persnickety businessman, a funky rapper, a flirty schoolgirl-against a rich background of ocher, lilac, or aquamarine. Consumers were introduced to HypnoMoto, a guru-type figure swinging a V70 phone (text: “A paradigm-shifting, rotating, mind-altering phone”) and to AlphaMoto (the 280i: “Triband, SIR. Text-messaging, SIR. Web Access, SIR.”) among others.
Redsun won’t disclose the cost of the BIG project, but he says it’s paying off in higher unit sales. Although handset sales are a function of several factors-price, phone functions, and even the state of the economy-Motorola’s market share has climbed steadily since the Moto campaign made its debut in 2001, according to data from investment banking firm Raymond James & Co. Analyst Todd Koffman reported in September that Motorola’s T720 series phones are the most popular handsets with retail outlets, and that Motorola is, once again, the most popular brand in America. Redsun likes that fact, as well as the fact that thanks to BIG, Motorola “ended up with some truly iconic design.”
Suzanne McGee is a New York-based freelance writer. She contributes to Barron’s, the Financial Times, and ARTNews, among other publications.
For more Case Studies order the 2003 I.D. Design Sourcebook, the design industry’s most comprehensive compilation of the who’s-who in graphics, packaging, photography, product design, materials and more.