CEO Zander CMO Frost Remodel Motorola

November 1, 2005


If you want a really cool marketing job, do you take the offer from Nike, Apple or Motorola?

After listening to Geoffrey Frost, CMO of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Inc., I’d take the Motorola job, hands down.

No one has ever accused me of being cool. I’m more comfortable in Brooks Brothers than Armani. Oakley sunglasses would be wasted on me; I buy my shades at Walgreen’s. But I want a Motorola RAZR for my birthday. That sleek, black, thin, iconic design is way cooler than the clunky Nokia phone I carry.

I’ll run in Nikes, but my eye is on a Motorola Q, a wireless e-mail device equipped with a qwerty keyboard that is going to give RIM’s BlackBerry a run for its money.

Yes, I have an Apple iPod mini. I like it, but the new Motorola ROKR, which combines iTunes’ music download capability and cell phone service, is the wave of the future. Who wants to carry multiple devices? It makes the pants pockets too bulky and uncool. I’ve got enough bulk with the Nokia as it is.

What about Apple’s new iPod nano? Well, Motorola’s CEO Ed Zander might have lost his cool when he told Macworld’s Jim Dalrymple, “Screw the nano.”

Added Zander, “What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs? People are going to want devices that do more than just play music.” I agree with Zander. Go with a ROKR instead of a nano. ROKR’s what I want under my Christmas tree.

I think it’s cool that Motorola’s CEO is willing to speak his mind and be forthright. Zander’s candor makes him credible and adds to Motorola’s cool factor.

Speaking before the Business Marketing Association in Chicago, Frost put it all in perspective, saying, “Cell phones are the new running shoes.”

Frost should know. Before joining Motorola he was global director of advertising and brand communications for Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike Inc. He helped Nike founder Phil Knight make the Nike swoosh ubiquitous. Now Frost is making the Motorola batwing logo the global essence of cool.

Frost understands his market. He knows kids these days are more concerned with the mobile devices they carry in their pockets and purses than the shoes they wear on their feet. The world is going mobile. “The Internet is going airborne,” Zander says.

As the broadband Internet takes to the air, the market for mobile devices is skyrocketing. Consider this: Motorola introduced the cell phone in 1983. Twenty years later there were 1 billion cellular connections worldwide. Last September, that number hit the 2 billion mark, according to cellular industry researcher Wireless Intelligence, based in London. By 2010 it will grow to 3 billion.

No wonder Motorola’s Zander was exuberant as he spoke at TiECON 2005, a technology industry conclave held recently in Chicago. Pointing to his suite of handheld mobile devices, Zander said, “We are going to ship 800 million of these things worldwide this year.”

With all that growth, it’s no wonder there’s an epic marketing battle taking shape in mobile devices. That struggle will make the competition between Nike, Reebok, Adidas, New Balance and Converse look like child’s play. Motorola, Nokia and Samsung are fighting for global dominance. The fight may soon spill over and include Apple, Microsoft and many others.

Who’s going to win? I say Motorola, because Frost and Zander get marketing. They know it’s about cool brand image and iconic product design every bit as much as it’s about engineering “best in class” products. Motorola has always had brilliant engineering. Now they have marketing sizzle, as well.

Don’t get me wrong: Frost is a by-the-numbers marketer. He systematically tracks the Motorola “cool factor” through global research studies, and shares his numbers regularly with the industry analysts. Frost also monitors the buzz on Motorola on the blogs and message boards. He watches the status of his brand. Motorola is up eight places to No. 73 on Interbrand’s list of best-regarded brands.

He’s an expert at seeding his products in just the right places. Motorola’s black RAZR was the toast of Hollywood. Bootlegged lab models were selling on eBay before their release. A new pink version of the RAZR is being used by just a few celebrities.

Where some executives might shy away from controversy, Frost knows better. He realizes you can’t just declare yourself cool--it’s a title others bestow on you. He knows the importance of taking risks and he’s willing to polarize his audience. That’s all part of establishing Motorola as a cool, winning brand.

In a recent Motorola ad, two male executives are in a meeting. One picks up a cell phone call. Looking at the screen, he sees a video message from his scantily clad wife suggesting he come home. The ad is provocative without crossing the line, using clever humor and sophistication to get its message across. The ad is vintage Frost.

What’s interesting here is that Motorola--long a product innovator--is willing to be innovative and take risks in marketing. That bodes well for a company Frost is fond of calling “the world’s first high-tech startup.”

For 77 years, Motorola’s been cranking out breakthrough products. When the company was founded, radios were large pieces of living room furniture. Paul Galvin bet the company on the idea he could miniaturize a radio and fit it in the dashboard of a car, revolutionizing our parents’ driving experience.

While traveling in Europe in the 1930s, Galvin asked War Department representatives how they would communicate in future conflicts. “They planned to string wires between rows of trenches,” says Robert Galvin, retired CEO of the company and son of the founder. Recognizing the threat from Hitler’s Germany, Paul Galvin bet the company on a new innovation and the walkie-talkie two-way radio was created. It helped win World War II.

In today’s flatter, interconnected world, Motorola is once again a visionary leader. Tomorrow’s success will come from brain power. “We’re in the ‘brain gain’ economy,” Zander says, which brings me back to Frost, who has beaucoup brain power. Here’s a CMO who is pragmatic and analytical but can catalyze a global organization and build a brand. He’s comfortable with risk. He has a sense of style and cool. Frost is energizing and enlightening. He’s the right person to help Motorola compete in the brain gain economy.

One more thing--Frost is making Motorola a cool place to be a marketer. Forget about Nike and Apple.

Michael Krauss is a partner with Marion Consulting Partners based in Highland Park, Ill., and can be reached at or


 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners