Innovation & Design

Motorola Picking Up


In the mid-1990s, American baby boomers rushed to buy tiny StarTAK phones, which suggested something of Captain Kirk's self confidence. "Beam me up, Scotty" was still in our memory, and Motorola's (MOT) mojo could make Austin Powers blush.

Then somehow, the curves vanished. Corporate groups lost focus and products became obese and clunky. While Nokia (NOK) and iPod accepted accolades for artsy industrial designs, most consumer electronic designs were simply boring. Motorola went through a dark age.

It has been almost ten years, and a visit to the Motorola global corporate website reveals a roaring change. The homepage appears to be heavily influenced by Apple.com's clean use of the color grey and plenty of white space. A Flash demo of the new Rokr cellphone makes quite a splash. Whereas last year's Razr had turned heads, this year's Rokr wants to spin them. The corporate portal superbly captures the new brand positioning of Motorola. Even the navigation bar manages not to be boring and is particularly easy to use, unlike so many dhtml navigation menus in cyberspace. Moreover, this corporate site does not miss the opportunity to sell!

Motorola - picking up Motorola's use of Flash animation to introduce product is especially noteworthy. Clicking on MotoQ links to a teaser (make that "tzr" in the Moto lingo) that offers to keep you updated on an unspecified future introduction of the PDA—a great opportunity for building a database of interested consumers. Other Flash demos, like SLVR, wrap the phone in elegant sexiness. The clips could come straight from the LucasFilm studio (without THX).

The MotoLounge, accessible from the e-Shop site, segments the market by different lifestyles (work smarter, live simply). It's interesting but stretches the brand across too many diverse lifestyles, producing a loss in message consistency.

The Rokr phone has received some flak for its bad compromises. It is designed by a corporate committee (epitomized in the diverging interests of Cingular, Apple (AAPL) and Motorola) and not by a passion for the customer. Online communication departments typically face a similar dilemma of too much contrasting input. The result can be that their website starts to fragment and lose an otherwise focused brand message. Is this a trap into which Motorola is falling?

This worry aside, overall Motorola.com works, and it works rather well. There is so much cool material on the site that it is easy to be carried away and perhaps lose sight of key objectives. If the goal is to deliver a powerful and consistent brand message, the tip of this iceberg is perfectly aligned with the new Motorola. However, digging deeper, it becomes harder to recognize the brand, as its message often takes a backseat to other priorities. Make no mistake though: Moto is back, and its sites are benchmarks.


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