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Somebody save Huawei from itself

Somebody save Huawei from itself


Good marketing shouldn’t be this hard

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Huawei booth, MWC 2017
Huawei booth, MWC 2017
Vlad Savov / The Verge

Over the past couple of years, few companies have made as much progress on the global stage of mobile technology as Huawei. Better known for providing networking infrastructure for most of its history, Huawei is quickly becoming a household name in the West, just as it’s well known in its native China. But still, this old engineering giant has a few things to learn about the proper way to present its products.

Back at IFA in September, Huawei’s Nova series launch featured a 20-minute selfie masterclass from a random Instagram user. It was peculiar, it was patronizing, and it was perplexing. It also made me completely forget about the Nova phones that we were supposedly there to see. Here is but a quick highlight reel of it:

After that event, I felt a newfound antipathy toward Huawei’s new products, which I didn’t experience when I’d seen and used them earlier. The company literally made me hate its phones by the way it was pitching them. Oh, irony, thy name is Huawei.

As if to prove that IFA was no fluke, Huawei outdid itself here at Mobile World Congress. The company interrupted the launch of its new P10 flagship event for a solid 11 minutes of Pantone explaining the colors green and blue. I wasn’t at the event in person, but the howls of fellow journalists stuck listening to that could be heard reverberating around the world via chat clients and social media.

Starting at the 12-minute mark in the video, a well meaning Pantone representative starts to break down these two colors like some sloppily assembled color interpretation website. Green reminds us of renewal or trees, we’re told. We should drink more green, we’re told (which, frankly, I’d have liked to get a little more elaboration on; is that advising us to make broccoli juice or what?). Green is "almost out of touch with reality, but into another sphere." I’ve no idea what she meant by that, I just know it had nothing to do with the Huawei P10.

Cue the camera switching to a crowd shot, where a couple of hundred impassive bodies are frozen in place by a sense of overwhelming incredulity. Six minutes is half an eternity in a new product presentation, so you’d better be sure that time is invested in a compelling pitch that builds people’s anticipation. Instead, Huawei and Pantone filled out the other half of an eternity with a breakdown of what blue is all about. That portion featured blue moons, the innovative idea that blue is associated with the sky, and the premise that blue has depth and mystery. You know, like the blue ocean.

Huawei’s events aren’t the thing that will make or break its products, but they’re the most direct way that the company speaks to its users. And that, much more than its products, is what needs the biggest improvement from the company.

P.S. — The photo at the top of this article is from Huawei’s booth. No, I can’t explain it either.

Huawei P10 first look