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So much for Motorola's 'Made in the USA' marketing

By: Mark Bergen
ADVERTISING AGE

May 31, 2014

Last July, when Motorola Mobility launched its newest phone, the Moto X, it went full-on patriotic. Then Google-owned, the company ran a sweeping print campaign on the July 4th weekend, emblazoned with the copy for the "first smartphone designed, engineered and assembled in the USA."

Well, scratch that.

A year after opening its handset facility in Fort Worth, Texas, Motorola has announced it will shut the factory by the end of the year. The company cited fledgling sales numbers and rising costs of U.S. production.

"What we found was that the North American market was exceptionally tough," Motorola President Rick Osterloh told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. A spokeswoman for Motorola confirmed the decision.

For the Moto X, Motorola run full-page ads with The New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. The handset maker worked with the creative agency shopDroga5 and Publicis Groupe's Digitas.

With the campaign, Motorola, whose smartphone market share was slipping, shot for a rebrand. It positioned the ads around customer freedom — hawking the phone as the first "you can design yourself." At the time, a Motorola marketing executive described the strategy as having a "Googley attitude" and noted that the company hoped to do for phones what Google had done with search.

In January, Google sold the Motorola handset business to Lenovo for $2.91 billion.

Motorola said the acquisition, which is expected to close by the end of the year, did not affect the decision to shut the U.S. factory.

Since launching the Moto X, which initially sold for $600 without contract, Motorola has shifted to thrift. The company rolled out two new phones aimed at developing markets and first-time smartphone buyers. The Moto G, released in November, sells for $219 without a contract. And the Moto E, introduced in May, came at a bargain price-tag of $129.

It remains unclear if the prices will be intact once Lenovo takes over. Neither company has commented on how the Motorola business will continue after the meger.

Ads for Motorola's new phones made no mention of where they were made.

This report originally appeared on Plastics News' sister website, Advertising Age.