SAN FRANCISCO/BEIJING - Two years after US legislators branded it a national security threat, China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is planning a campaign to win over US consumers, rolling out new mobile phones and wearable devices backed by a marketing effort.
China's second-largest smartphone maker, already with more than $40 billion in annual revenue from a wide range of telecom gear and products, is preparing to introduce Americans to several of its smartphones and wearable devices this year, including its youth-oriented "Honor" phone, Huawei officials told Reuters.
The company's 2015 US plans, which have not been previously reported, will encompass traditional advertising, online promotion and sports team sponsorships, said Huawei's US spokesman Bill Plummer.
Huawei is changing its approach to marketing as it tries to shed its image as a purveyor of cheap technology products - a common perception issue for many Chinese companies. It's an important shift for a company that for years had been single-mindedly focused on engineering and relatively dismissive of consumer branding.
In December, it touted its new Honor 6 Plus phone on a billboard in New York's Times Square. Plummer said that was "a sign of things to come."
He declined to say how much Huawei will spend on its new marketing campaign or what sports team, or teams, it had in mind. It already sponsors London football club Arsenal, cricket teams in India and rugby clubs in Australia.
At the Mobile World Congress over the weekend in Barcelona, Huawei took the wraps off a smartwatch that will be sold in over 20 countries including the US
Huawei now intends to appeal directly to consumers with several new phone models, both low end and high end. It hopes to secure deals with carriers, selling online through marketplaces, such as the one operated by Amazon.com, and on its own fledgling gethuawei.com US direct-sales website.
It's unclear how open the carriers, who dominate US sales, would be to carrying phones from Huawei, a brand that remains unknown to the majority of American smartphone users. Reviews of its high-end phones, which can cost hundreds of dollars without a plan, have been generally positive.
Still, the US market is dominated by Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Samsung Electronics (005930.KS: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz). None of the four biggest US carriers - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile - currently sell Huawei phones on their websites and all declined to say whether they have had talks with the Chinese company.