HTC CEO Peter Chou Reflects On A Rough 2012, Says 2013 “Won’t Be Too Bad”

There’s really no other way to slice it — Taiwanese smartphone OEM HTC has had a difficult 2012. More than a few people have already weighed in on the company’s spotty 2012, but CEO Peter Chou recently spoke to the Wall Street Journal to offer his take on the company’s rough patch.

So what the hell happened this year? According to Chou, failures in marketing were a big part of its weak year.

“Our competitors were too strong and very resourceful, pouring in lots of money into marketing. We haven’t done enough on the marketing front.” This is hardly the first time HTC has blamed its rivals for its lackluster annual performance, but HTC’s weaknesses when it comes to cultivating an image (any image, really) can’t be understated.

Meanwhile, larger rivals like Samsung have shown no qualms when it comes to throwing their marketing weight around — the company surely paid a premium crafting commercials for the London Olympics and the Super Bowl, and often got feisty by jabbing at Apple line-sitters (sorry Romain). Apple has arguably lost some of its luster with some of its recent ads, but really — people are going to buy Apple gewgaws no matter what. HTC has already started to work on its marketing and perception issues — it snagged itself a new CMO who previously led Motorola Asia’s marketing efforts,

It feels like an excuse from Chou has become something of an annual tradition. Going into 2012, HTC pegged some of its woes on its product line — the company pointedly revealed its intention to pare down the number of phones it would produce in favor of a smaller number of “hero devices.” A quick look at the company’s phone portfolio shows that they’ve done nicely on that front. The original One series devices raised plenty of eyebrows when they were officially unveiled at MWC 2012 while more recent releases like the J Butterfly/Droid DNA prove rather nicely that HTC is still capable of pushing the envelopes of design and performance.

It’s precisely that ability to push envelopes that Chou is banking on to turn things around, noting that “the most important thing is to have unique products that appeal to consumers.” Easier said than done, of course.

What seems most curious to me here is Chou’s tone — he sounds pragmatic almost to the point of being defeatist. Longtime readers may know that I’m generally very bullish on HTC and its hardware, but CEO Chou was very careful to couch himself when it came to his outlook on the new year. According to him, 2013 “will not be too bad,” and that the worst “has probably passed” — is it just me, or are these pretty chilling words coming from HTC’s head honcho? I see the benefits of cautious optimism, but surely a teensy bit of hubris couldn’t hurt to whip his employees into a innovation-centric frenzy?