moto gets into the groove

MOTOROLA HAS A LONG and successful history in China, having been one of the earliest multinational companies to enter the market. As it often goes with longtime market leaders, especially in categories like handsets, which are
increasingly fashion- and trend-driven, there is a risk of falling out of grace with consumers.

This story tells how Motorola found a way to succeed in an extremely competitive category with very distinctive market dynamics. And also how it found its groove.

In China, iTunes doesn’t exist, the iPod has a tiny market share and music in general is mostly downloaded illegally. Over 35 percent of Chinese consumers actually listen to music on their mobile phones, while this number is only six percent in the U.S. Launching handsets with music capabilities, therefore, was a key strategic imperative. However, in order to really lock in consumers and provide a true mobile music experience, more was needed than just handsets that play music.

in search of mojo
motogroove girl

This is a success story, and it tells how Motorola did indeed get its mojo back by coming up with an entirely new way of connecting with consumers. (Certainly this is just one of the many things that Motorola did right in China, but it demonstrates how thinking beyond the usual and taking a risk can make all the difference.)

It all started in 2004, with a discussion of Motorola’s music strategy in China. As music is always popular among the youth audience, it was a fairly obvious discovery that music had the potential to become something big on the mobile phone, particularly with the merging of MP3 players and mobile phones into one device. Motorola already had he handset – all it had to do was devise a strategy to get music on phones and to provide a holistic music experience while keeping consumers engaged with the brand.

An investigation into the existing ways in which consumers accessed music revealed that music was generally downloaded illegally from an endless array of music websites. In addition, many consumers downloaded ringtones from mobile service providers through SMS. This information helped inform Motorola’s strategy to connect with consumers through music and, at the same time, ensure that consumers would “charge” their mobile phones with music.

an entirely different approach

A bold decision was fi nally taken not only to use music as a marketing tool, but to actually venture into the music distribution business by setting up MOTOMUSIC. This completely new initiative was a mobile entertainment destination that allowed consumers to legally download music to their mobile phones via a PC or over the air. Motorola signed contracts with all major music labels and provided sophisticated digital rights management (DRM) technology. Each song cost US$0.25 to download.

The establishment of MOTOMUSIC was a remarkable move, considering that Motorola in recent years had been purely a handset manufacturer. Nobody was able to predict if this venture would succeed or fail, and the threat of competition from pure content and pure mobile service providers was great.

In the three years since launch, MOTOMUSIC has grown to become the largest legal mobile music site in China, and a global success story for Motorola China. MOTOMUSIC exists as a website and as a pure mobile, WAP-based experience. Users can choose from around 130,000 songs by major Chinese performers, and from international stars as well.

MOTOMUSIC is a recognized brand in China and has evolved into a major marketing engine for Motorola. The site has evolved beyond just providing consumers with mobile music content to become a marketing platform that enables Motorola to connect with young consumers in a way that it never has before.

The focus has shifted from purely selling music to providing stickiness for the brand – a music entertainment destination that provides unique music-related content in various formats. MOTOMUSIC is now a tribe, a community of music lovers and a major marketing platform for new product launches, accessory sales, etc. Product managers who were initially very skeptical about the initiative now fight for key inventory on MOTOMUSIC to promote their new products.

The site features major community and Web 2.0 functions, allowing users to connect with like-minded people. They form their own music communities, personalize their experiences, upload their playlists and share favorites. The experience is enhanced by well-known music gurus, famous local DJs and musicians who provide their favorite playlists and insights for their fans.

the secret of success

Why did Motorola succeed? Certainly experience and integration are two of the most critical secrets to the company’s success.

MOTOMUSIC is a branded music and entertainment experience, not simply a mechanism for downloading music like so many of its competitors. MOTOMUSIC provides unique and completely intriguing content about stars and their music. MOTOMUSIC members have unique privileges, they are part of a tribe, and they are always connected to Motorola in a way they never were before. Most of all, MOTOMUSIC is absolutely simple.

The other key factor is the absolute integration of MOTOMUSIC into everything that Motorola does to promote its entertainment devices. MOTOMUSIC is becoming a brand in its own right; it’s featured in retail and on-pack through events, concerts, online and clubs in mass communications. It’s simply everywhere.

keeping it fresh

Motorola continually looks for ways to keep MOTOMUSIC fresh. An example is a partnership forged with Jay Chow, Asia’s King of Pop, according to Time magazine.

Motorola signed Jay Chow as their brand ambassador at the right moment, just a few months before the release of his much-anticipated new album, Still Fantasy, his thirteenth in seven years. The new CD was destined to be another huge success for the talented young musician – and what better way to turbo-boost awareness for MOTOMUSIC among his millions of Chinese fans? The fi rst thing Jay did in his new job was offer all the tracks of his new CD for download on exclusively for one month, a first for any Asian pop star.

motogroove stats

A 360 Degree campaign was rolled out to drive people to Jay’s newly designed home page on MOTOMUSIC. The campaign played only in very targeted channels, from banners on music websites to 15-second indents on MTV to viral videos posted on and, the Chinese equivalents of YouTube.

At the site, Jay’s fans could get unusually close to the normally rather shy superstar. The 12 tracks were offered as a free 30-second preview for every visitor. Registered users could stream the full song as often as they wanted, and download it for a fee as an MP3 full-length track or ringtone to their mobile phone. To up the hype, 10 rare video interviews and other exclusive video footage could be viewed and downloaded, and a highly addictive video mixer let users remix Jay’s dance moves over a choice of his new tracks.

motogroove guy

This partnership generated a huge lift for MOTOMUSIC and became one of the biggest and most successful campaign launches in Motorola China’s history. Website traffic increased by almost 1,000 percent and WAP site traffic by 150 percent. Registration for MOTOMUSIC membership was up by 117 percent. The site became an instant hit with Jay’s fan base, many of whom were passionate bloggers and posted links to MOTOMUSIC on countless Jay Chow fan sites and celebrity blogs.

MOTOMUSIC is now close to breaking the one million registered users mark. It receives around 2.5 million daily page views. Most importantly, MOTOMUSIC has increased sales of music-enabled handsets by over 50 percent. On a brand level, Motorola now has the highest association with music of any handset manufacturer in China, up from a distant third in Q4 2005.

The huge number of registered users and the high frequency of revisits made MOTOMUSIC a major relationship marketing vehicle, a media space, a community, a music business and, quite simply, a place where Motorola can groove with its young consumers.

Date: April 19, 2009