Motorola Rival: The Surprise Hit of the Summer

Anyone who has received a Facebook "friend request" from a parent should chuckle at a recent ad from Verizon Wireless.  As part of its back-to-school campaign, Verizon Wireless features a mom and dad annoying their children by Tweeting and Facebooking on their mobile phones.  The phones featured in this commercial, the Motorola Rival and LG enV3, are part of a rapidly growing phone segment — the "quick-messaging" device.  These phones are meant for the casual consumer rather than the business user, but still offer full QWERTY keyboards to allow for easy texting and social network updates.

LG was one of the first handset manufacturers to jump on this trend with its series of enV phones.  More interesting is the inclusion of Motorola’s Rival, as Motorola has been struggling to keep up with the competition after wearing thin the success of the RAZR earlier in the decade.

Given LG’s popularity and prominence in Verizon Wireless’s  advertising for the last several years, I wondered if the Rival could stand up to the enV3 head-to-head in terms of drawing online consumer interest.  The chart below shows the number of people who researched each "quick-messaging" device at Verizon Wireless each week, and the results surprised me.

Volume of researchers for the LG enV3 and Motorola Rival at Verizonwireless.com

"¢  The enV3had a huge launch with over 250K people researching the phone each week at Verizon Wireless in its first month
"¢  Interest in the Rival didn’t match that of the enV3 at launch, but increased steadily and surpassed interest in the enV3 in late July, about a month and a half after the initial launch
"¢  This surge in interest resulted in the Rival being the 4th most popular handset on the market in July

The most noteworthy thing about the Rival’s performance was how it completely bucked the normal trend seen when handsets launch. Normally, there is a spike in interest in the first week or two following launch, followed by a slow decline in researchers as consumers shift their attention to newer devices.  A popular and heavily promoted device like the enV3 may take longer to see consumer interest decline, but it clearly lost shoppers in the weeks following launch, unlike the Rival.

It seems the combination of Motorola’s non-traditional internet advertising (like its Thumb-Fu interactive campaign and Facebook presence) and Verizon Wireless’s back-to-school push helped the Rival reverse typical launch momentum and generate increasing online interest as time went on.

While the trend exhibited by the Rival was positive, Motorola shouldn’t stop looking over its shoulder at LG — the following chart shows the top 5 phones that Rival shoppers researched in addition to the Rival on Verizonwireless.com:

Percentage of Motorola Rival researchers at Verizon who also researched the following phones at Verizonwireless.com (July 2009)

This provides an example of LG’s strength at Verizon Wireless — the Rival’s 5 most cross-shopped devices were all LG devices, 3 of which are focused on the quick-messaging market (enV Touch, enV3 and Versa).

While LG will likely remain a force at VZW, Motorola has one ace up its sleeve— an upcoming device running Google’s much-hyped Android OS, rumored to be released at Verizon Wireless this fall.  The successful launch of the Rival could provide Motorola with great momentum leading up to this flagship launch and help steal some of LG’s spotlight at Verizon Wireless.