Officials at Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei Technologies Co. are taking a new tack to thwart U.S. government and industry accusations of spying and intellectual property theft. They’re taking their case right to consumers with the universally appealing, two-pronged approach of flashy discounts and free prizes.
Huawei officials on Monday announced a new $30 million promotional blitz to raise awareness of the company’s consumer mobile devices built and marketed by its Huawei Device mobile unit.
The 10-week program, called Ascend to New Heights, “is a significant milestone in the company’s increasing push into the direct-to-consumer space,” and “is set to wow a global audience and extend awareness of the Huawei Device brand globally.”
The campaign, which features an associated website at www.AscendToNewHeights.com, features a number of interactive contests with prizes that include a all-expenses trip to the luxury Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai and a private helicopter tour of the city.
While the effort is global, Huawei officials have clearly carved out special perks to generate some new fans in the United States in particular. U.S. consumers who check out the latest Huawei mobile gear can enter to win movie tickets or a Huawei phone with one month of free cellular service. On winner in the United States will get to take three friends to New York City for New Year’s Eve, officials said.
In a statement that seemed partly about Huawei Device products and partly about the scathing criticism the company has garnered in the United States of later, company officials said they believe “that everyone can be the center of information and that the world would be a better place if access and information barriers were knocked down.
“Its strong suite of mobile phones, mobile broadband devices and home devices is testimony to Huawei Device’s focus on customers and its commitment to providing user-friendly mobile internet experiences through ongoing innovation,” the company said. “Based on more than two decades of success in the information and communications industry, and with our own channel expertise, operational capabilities and global partner resources, Huawei Device is transforming from a company that sells millions of devices in single transactions to large businesses, to a ‘business-to-people’ brand that also sells individual devices directly to millions of people.”
Huawei has been under the gun since early October when Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the powerful House Select Committee on Intelligence, appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes to warn the U.S. market of what lawmakers perceived as the Huawei threat.
“If I were an American company today… and you are looking at Huawei, I would find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property, if you care about your consumers’ privacy, and you care about the national security of the United States of America,” Rogers said.
The House admonition was followed with reports that the Obama administration had led its own security review of Huawei equipment and business practices and found no evidence of espionage or deliberate cybersecurity threats or practices that would undermine the national security of the United States, Reuters news service reported. The White House has since denied it authorized any such report and disavowed the conclusion that Huawei had been exonerated.
China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming, a Communist Party member, responded to the controversy this past weekend, saying “The U.S. raised the security issue of Huawei and ZTE to the level where they are asking whether the companies have Communist Party cells and what their relations are with the party. Can you imagine if China started asking U.S. companies coming to China what their relationship was with the Democratic or Republican parties? It would be a mess. Personally I think this has gone too far.”
The damage for Huawei may have already been done, however. A poll conducted by Channelnomics and The 2112 Group after the House report was made public found that U.S. solution providers overwhelmingly felt the U.S. assertions against Huawei would dampen sales and marketability of the company’s products, and they would be less likely to work with companies labeled as a national security threat.
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