HTC On Innovation, Simplicity, And Branding

I ran across a very interesting Q&A with John Wang, CMO of HTC, the Taiwanese company that delivered the first cell phone using Google’s Android operating system. The article focuses on how HTC cultivates innovation through it’s Magic Labs organization, which is a group of people across multiple disciplines (called “Magicians”) that focus on long-term innovations. The CMO runs the group and his business card says “Chief Innovation Wizard.”

While the article provides interesting insights about how HTC handles innovation, I really enjoyed Wang’s discussion about two of my favorite topics: simplicity and branding.

The way most companies compete is by adding features to their products and services. So, over time, the offerings become more complicated than what’s actually needed by large segments of customers. And the interface to those products becomes increasingly complex. That’s why I’ve defined ULTRASIMPLICITY as one of the Five Disruptive Customer Experience Strategies. Here’s some of what Wang had to say on the topic:

Everybody was talking about simplicity, everybody was talking about usability. What did people do? Well, they rearranged the menu and called that improving usability. That’s not simplicity, that’s rearranging menu items…. The true mission is not to reduce learning, but to eliminate learning… The baby is probably the best expression for zero learning because the baby has not learned anything yet. If she wants to see the monkey on the other side of the block, she simply reaches out and turns the cube.

When I discuss brand, it’s often in context of the 2nd principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: Reinforce the brand with every interaction, not just communications. Brands need to be about walking the walk, not just talking the talk. All too often, though, I find that “the brand” only exists in advertising groups. When that happens, the rest of the company doesn’t really reinforce any of the brand value; leading to empty promises in marketing. So I really appreciated the following comments from Wang:

There is a very important difference between brand value and brand recognition. Brand value means something to the end user. Brand recognition, all it means is a bunch of advertising to make people recognize the brand name. At HTC we care about brand value, not brand recognition. Building brand value is like earning respect; you have to earn respect, you cannot buy respect.

The bottom line: “Innovation + Simplicity + Brand Value” is a great formula.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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