Danny Adamopoulos, GM sales APAC Mature Markets, dropped into GadgetGuy for a chat.

I feel very comfortable chatting with Danny. He is a straight shooter, not afraid to call a spade a bloody shovel. If we need to discuss anything off the record its ‘pen down’ and he will educate me.

None of this “No comment” BS we journalists often receive.

I have been following Motorola (Moto) as a company since before Google acquired it in 2011 for US$12.5 billion. It was then resold for $2.91 billion to Lenovo in 2014. You can catch up on its history here.

Motorola is far from a spent force. But it has rightly been called a broken brand, in need of a revival.

GG: Danny Adamopoulos, you have been with Motorola for 18 years. Why?

Danny AdamopoulosMate, it is not because I have not received other offers over the years. It’s flattering that others recognise my expertise. I don’t see myself moving to another type of industry

I choose to stay with Motorola because it is an iconic brand with a great heritage. In fact, Motorola was the first phone I owned. It’s a great place to work. It’s given me so many opportunities to expand my knowledge, travel the world, experience cultural diversity, make many friends around the world while having an extreme amount of fun. I even met my wife because of Motorola while on an overseas assignment.

I started at a junior level and worked my way up through the ranks. Throughout this time, I have seen the growth and evolution of the global mobile market, as well as Motorola’s ups and downs over the years from Analogue to now 5G. Like in one of our shining moments when we sold 130 million RAZR flip phones. Now emulating that success with the Motorola G series.

GG: What is it like to be acquired by Google and subsequently, spurned and on-sold at a bargain to Lenovo?

It has had its challenges. If I had said otherwise I would be lying. There was a disruption to the business. This is always a by-product of acquisitions, but we eventually got our stride and rhythm back.  We gained a lot from the Google acquisition, including the move to pure Android, and putting the customer at the centre of every decision which is something we still do today!

Google did not sell the same company to Lenovo it acquired. There was a lot of change made along the way.

While the dream of a ‘Made by Google’ smartphone didn’t materialise as planned, somehow it spawned a franchise of products now known as the Moto G-series. That’s a win for Lenovo.

GG: At that time Lenovo needed a prestige American brand to gain a slice of that market. I quote

Yang Yuanqing, Chairman and CEO of Lenovo said, “The acquisition of such an iconic brand, innovative product portfolio and incredibly talented global team will immediately make Lenovo a strong global competitor in smartphones. We will immediately have the opportunity to become a strong global player in the fast-growing mobile space.”

“We are confident that we can bring together the best of both companies to deliver products customers will love and a strong, growing business. Lenovo has a proven track record of successfully embracing and strengthening great brands – as we did with IBM’s Think brand – and smoothly and efficiently integrating companies around-the-world.  I am confident we will be successful with this process, and that our companies will not only maintain our current momentum in the market but also build a strong foundation for the future.”

You can read Ray Shaw’s take at that time here.

Well, that is still largely true. But it took time to integrate the companies. Lenovo wanted to set a clear strategic direction. Would Lenovo continue to make its branded phones? Was Motorola still going to be called Motorola?

It was only mid-last year that Lenovo had sufficient clarity for us to move forward. Our research in Australia had shown that Motorola as a brand still resonates very highly in Australia.

It made more sense for Lenovo to continue building on the successful Motorola brand.

GG: What does that mean to the Motorola range?

Let’s explain the range

  • Moto Z-series is our flagship and takes Moto Mods. These are add-on devices that expand the phone capabilities. The Moto Z3 is available now in other markets (and will make its way to Australia soon. Watch this space). It will have all the top end bells and whistles. In the meantime, we have the Moto Z2 Play introduced in October 2017, now at $499.
  • Moto X-series is an upper-mid-range with IP68 rating, dual rear cameras etc. The Moto X4 is currently at $399.
  • Moto G-series is our mid-range best-selling franchise. Our newly launched Moto G6 family (Play, Standard and Plus) are doing well and has superseded their predecessors the Moto G5S and Moto G5S Plus. These have 18:9 Max Vision display, 5.7 – 5.9-inch displays, great cameras and dual-sim with separate SD card slots priced at $329, $399 and $499 respectively. You will find these at The Good Guys, Officeworks and other retailers.
  • Moto E-series is our value tiered products. The Moto E5 has a 5.7-inch screen, 13MP rear camera and more for $229. You will find this and the Moto E4 at Australia Post, Coles and Officeworks.
  • Moto C is our entry-level product and mainly sits as a hang-sell in grocery channels at $129. Our only one using a MediaTek processor.

GG: That is a full range. Why so large?

What we bring to Australia is a subset of our Global portfolio. But we want as many Motorola phones to be in people’s hands as possible hence having a great range of phones in each segment.

The phones we do end up bringing in are all fully tested, certified and approved for Australian (and New Zealand) carriers. That costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars to do.

GG: What about the grey market?

Yes, the grey market is rife here. It can offer lower cost phones as it is all online. Frankly, it causes us a lot of brand damage. Try getting a warranty from them. When someone rings us about Motorola support, we try to help, but we can’t do anything if we did not sell it.

A dead giveaway is a non-branded power adaptor or a power adaptor with a non-Australian charger pin. Most will not work on the unique LTE bands needed by Australian carriers.

GG: Motorola seems to have been quiet over the past 12 months. Why?

We did not go quiet; we just changed our approach. Motorola looked deeper at the consumers purchasing our phones and their purchase journey. We became more digital and social-focused while still working with our retail partners on traditional co-branded activities.

Digital is much more precise. It allows us to target specific models to specific demographics. For example, if a customer is searching for a $200 – $400 price point smartphone. We can target them with a Moto G-series.

It also allows us to reach our regional and rural customers who may not have a retail channel close by through our online store.

Our philosophy is long-term. We see this as a marathon, not a sprint.

GG: I have noticed that some brands have moved to a six months new model cycle. Why?

These are predominately Asian brands that serve a huge market driven by new features. One day Brand X has the best camera, so they buy that. Next day brand Y has a better one and so on. It’s a mad scramble to stay at the top. We will have to do this if we are to be successful in China. That’s why China has its own portfolio from a Lenovo perspective.

But we look at a 9-12 months product cycle for Australian products. Rapid model transitions wreaks havoc for our retailers from a lifecycle management perspective. We aim to bring in the good, better and best within a series. Example, the Moto G6 Play, Standard and Plus models.

More importantly is Motorola’s commitment to pure Android and software updates for at least two years. Our two-year-old Moto G4 Plus will get Android 8. Our Moto G5-series will get Android O soon. The market wants upgrades, and we have a strong history of delivering that.

Plus, our product quality is great with low failure rates. Part of that is due to controlling our factories and having a great quality design philosophy. This gives great lifecycle to our products.

GG: Any final words?

Our parent company is the number one PC manufacturer in the world. Motorola has been challenged to follow suit in the mobile space.

We’ve got the perfect recipe. We have great relationships with our carriers and retail partners, terrific products and a great brand and heritage.  We will continue to grow in the mobile industry – after all, we invented it.

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