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November 21, 2006

Positioning: Helio, Helio, Thou Doth Protest Too Much

Helio Billboard 7-Up won by being the un-cola. Nintendo Wii hopes to be the un-gaming system. And it seems Helio just might win by being an un-phone.

Helio aims to catch the public’s attention by an un-positioning campaign. The company’s billboards show pictures of devices that look like cell phones, with captions like “Friendar” and “Conversation Starter” and the tagline “Don’t call us a phone company.”

The tactic is working, at least in terms of getting attention. The obvious question is “Well, if it’s not a phone, what is it?” That provokes people to find out more. On the other hand, hiding its own name in small print left me looking “Friendar” up on Google.

Helio BillboardIt’s unlikely that Helio will succeed in getting people to refer to their devices as “devices” rather than phones. Even Helio owners posting pictures on Flickr use the tag “cellphone” as well as “helio.”

What really matters to the wireless company, however, is not eliminating the word “phone” from the vocabulary of its users, but rather getting people to switch from other services to theirs. By rejecting the term “phone” and emphasizing features like MySpace Mobile and the Buddy Beacon, Helio turns its position as a newcomer into an advantage.

Thomas Sherman writes about Helio's "This is not your father's Oldsmobile" approach on his blog, The Sherman Foundation. Check it out for further insights into the campaign's approach, and for a couple links to the Helio TV spots which cleverly deliver the tagline as a punchline.

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Posted by Diane Prange at November 21, 2006 8:28 AM
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