In the midst of internal and external troubles, Huang Zhang’s dream machine can’t save Meizu I

  "I will go out of the mountain to build my dream machine to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Meizu."

  When Meizu founder Huang Zhang appeared on the Meizu forum on February 11, 2017 to write this sentence, all Meizu fans cheered, "Mr. Huang, I am ready to buy your flagship phone," and one fan excitedly left a message.

  However, after a year of waiting, Huang Zhang appeared on the forum again, saying that "due to time constraints, 15 is just a small test for me to return to Meizu after many years, and the 16 series launched later is the product I have fully built. The 16 series will be launched around August."

  The Meizu 15 released on April 22, with a very narrow frame, a small circle of return, and a Luo Yun pattern on the antenna, has a clear Huang style brand. However, with the popularity of new technologies such as full-screen and under-screen fingerprints, the tribute to the classic Meizu 15 has not brought too much desire to change phones to picky users.

  Meizu 15 is more like a product that connects the past and the future. At least on the product, it announced again that Huang Zhang, the chief designer of Meizu mobile phones, is back. But in the fiercely competitive Chinese smartphone market, after the failure of the Pro 7 and the test of Meizu 15, how much time is left for Meizu?

  "The greater the hope, the greater the disappointment."

  After Huang Zhang claimed that Meizu 15 was just a small test, many fans left comments saying that "the greater the hope, the greater the disappointment".

  In fact, after Huang Zhang claimed to re-launch the dream machine Meizu 15, expectations for the product have been high. Meizu is also externally promoting the significance of this product to Huang Zhang and Meizu itself.

  If you think about what he has done before, are the M8 and M6 ruthless? So we still have a lot of confidence in Mr. Huang’s products, and I believe that the offensive will be enough. "Li Nan, the president of Meilan, said in an interview with Sina Technology.

  However, judging from the situation after the release of Meizu 15, it is obvious that Meizu fans are not satisfied.

  An old Meizu friend who claimed to be "past the age of brainless fans" posted on the Meizu forum, "Old Huang’s little marketing tricks, to be honest, at an age when he can still be fanatical, I still admire them. Now, I don’t want to say it out. In short, Old Huang is Meizu’s biggest reliance and the biggest obstacle. Stop using Old Huang as a gimmick, and recall the success of J. wong ten years ago to sum up the successful experience. For Old Meizu, the whole mobile phone that makes Old Meizu stand up straight is like the whole m8 back then. Leading the trend is not Meizu’s responsibility, but at least keeping up with the trend is the reason why Meizu continues to buy Meizu mobile phones."

  Huang Zhang’s repetition of Meizu 15’s publicity and marketing rhythm has indeed brought a lot of negative word-of-mouth to this product. Yang Zhe, Meizu’s senior vice president, also admitted in an interview after the press conference that Meizu 15 is indeed just a product of Huang Zhang’s small test. "Mr. Huang has been out of the company’s management and operation for a period of time. After he returns, he must feel that his grasp of the market is accurate or inaccurate, and whether the concept can be accepted by consumers? There are also old Meizu friends who have lost a lot, and many have been replaced and turned into young ones. Whether these people buy such designs is not a simple matter."

  Urgent need for clear brand and product positioning

  After the separation of the Meizu brand and the Meizu brand in May 2017, the Meizu internal positioning of the two brands was clarified: the Meizu brand is more focused on the high-end market, targeting business, government and enterprise, high-end, and elite groups; while the Meizu brand is targeted at the young people market and undertakes the task of sales.

  Although the positioning and differentiation of the two brands have been done well, in fact, the brand perception of the Meizu brand has not been successful, and the business attributes of the product are not enough.

  According to the Flyme user report released by Meizu at the end of last year, the cumulative number of Flyme users exceeded 6,000 units. In terms of overall age distribution, 31% were aged 15-22, 59% were aged 23-35, and only 4% were aged 36-45 and over 46. Geographically, second-tier cities accounted for 35%, third-tier cities 24%, fourth-tier cities 26%, and first-tier cities only 13%.

  This means that Flyme users can also be roughly regarded as Meizu mobile phone users, with young users between the ages of 15 and 35 in second- and third-tier cities accounting for the vast majority.

  This poses a challenge to the high-end business image that Meizu brand is eager to create. On the one hand, only 8% of Meizu’s own users meet this age group. Most Meizu users are not interested in the Buddhist marketing and business brand perception elements added by Meizu on Pro 7 and Meizu 15. This was shown when Yang Zhe released a promotional poster on Weibo to warm up Meizu 15. Existing Meizu users do not like and recognize Huang Zhang and Yang Zhe’s unique brand concept for Meizu.

  On the other hand, the Pro 7 and Meizu 15 did not reflect enough business elements in terms of product attributes. Yang Zhe emphasized at the press conference that purchasing hundreds of kilograms of pure gold materials to color the back shell, spending millions of dollars to customize Samsung’s new size display, and a global haptic feedback system did not constitute a necessary factor to impress the business crowd, let alone compete for users from Huawei, Samsung, and other players.

  Confused product lines and pricing strategies

  "Meizu is the real flagship" is a kind of ridicule by netizens that Meizu’s flagship product is not as good as Meizu’s products in some configurations. Unfortunately, this ridicule happened to Meizu 15.

  Meizu 15 series has a total of three products, the M15 uses the Snapdragon 626 processor, with 4GB memory + 64GB storage, priced at 1699 yuan; the 15 uses the Snapdragon 660 processor, with 4GB + 64GB storage, priced at 2499 yuan; the 15 Plus uses the Samsung Exynos 8895 platform, with 6GB + 128GB storage, priced at 2999 yuan.

  Overall, the three products make a good distinction in terms of configuration and price, but the comparison with the Meizu E3 just released by Meizu will be rather awkward.

  The Meizu E3 uses a Snapdragon 636 processor, with 6GB + 64GB storage, and is priced at 1799 yuan. Although the Meizu E3 lags behind the M15 and 15 in terms of camera performance, it has an advantage in the basic memory combination. This will undoubtedly make the Meizu brand and Meizu brand product lines conflict and confusion in user choices.

  Meizu brand’s previous flagship product Pro 7 also faces this situation.

  Although it has a unique screen design, it is equipped with MediaTek Xili P25 and Xili X30 processors, and the price is as high as 2880 yuan and 3580 yuan at the same time. As a result, the product has not received external recognition, and the price has plunged 1,000 yuan in a short period of time, and it has even been exposed that the order has to be cut in the end.

  Although the Meizu 15 uses a Qualcomm processor, the price of 660 + 4GB + 64GB at 2499 yuan has also attracted controversy. Compared with other brands at the same price, the competitiveness is limited.

  Internal management crisis

  Before the release of Meizu 15, Zhang Jia, the former director of Meizu’s cultural and creative department, bombarded Meizu’s senior vice president Yang Zhe, which had long attracted the attention of netizens and the media.

  According to Zhang Jia’s description, since Yang Zhe joined in May 2017, he has proposed three plans: Meizu Cultural Asset Enhancement Plan, Meizu Financial Business Development New Concept and Flyme Cultural Asset Enhancement Plan, but they have all failed. At present, most of the staff of Benge Technology, a content marketing platform under Meizu founded by him, have also been lost.

  In fact, this is just a microcosm of the change in Meizu’s organizational structure led and inspired by Huang Zhang.

  Three months after Huang Zhang’s return, Meizu underwent a major organizational restructuring. Huang Zhang served as Meizu’s chairperson and CEO, and established three new business divisions – Meizu Business Division, Meizu Business Division, and Flyme Business Division. Huang Zhang personally managed the Meizu business division, and Yang Zhe served as senior vice president and general staff officer, responsible for the marketing of the Meizu brand; while Li Nan was responsible for the Meizu brand.

  In September last year, Pan Yikuan, the vice president of Meizu’s business unit in charge of sales, left after less than four months; a few months later, Chu Chunmin, the vice president of sales of Meizu’s business unit, and most of the employees in the sales team he led announced their departure.

  In December 2017, Huang Zhang adjusted Meizu’s structure again, establishing a new overseas business department, an e-commerce business department, and an accessories business department. He promoted CFO Qi Weimin to senior vice president of the company, on an equal footing with President Bai Yongxiang, with the intention of increasing revenue and reducing expenditure to ensure profits. At the same time, he further expanded overseas markets and expanded sales.

  In addition to structural adjustments, Meizu has been in the bottom 10% for three consecutive years, which has contributed significantly to Meizu’s profitability since 2016.

  Meizu is not so much going through an internal struggle, but rather a rebalancing of power under Huang Zhang’s will. Just as Li Nan, who was supposed to lead Meizu to independence, was finally asked by Huang Zhang to cooperate with Meizu’s division and accessories division on channels. At the same time, Huang Zhang also withdrew Meizu’s product definition and design authority; at the Meizu 15 conference, Yang Zhe also replaced the usual combination of Bai Yongxiang and Li Nan as the main speaker.

  In an interview after the Meizu 15 press conference, Yang Zhe also talked about the recent Zhang Jia incident. He believes that this situation is a harbinger of Meizu’s long-standing accumulation of change. "Reform has been difficult since ancient times, and it is easy to see no reform." He also said that with the deepening of reform, there will be more organizational structure and personnel adjustments. "This incident shows that Meizu has reached a point where it must be changed."

  After the Zhang Jia incident, Huang Zhang immediately called Yang Zhe and said, "No matter what, we must firmly move towards the correct brand strategy. A company should not be threatened by crude cyber attacks or even organized online public opinion. We must firmly follow our own path."

  Conclusion: Can Meizu 15 and 16 save Meizu?

  After experiencing the cold winter of smartphones in 2017, Chinese manufacturers felt the cold winter again in Quarter 1 of 2018. The "Analysis Report on the Operation of the Domestic Mobile Phone Market in March 2018" released by the China Institute of Information and Communications under MIIT shows that in January-March 2018, China’s smartphone shipments were 81.87 million, down 27.0% year-on-year.

  Under the internal and external troubles, Meizu has indeed reached a moment when it has to change. Huang Zhang, who has always paid attention to products and even believes that good products are the only way to solve problems, has also made drastic changes to Meizu in terms of brand, marketing, products, and channels after his return.

  However, just as Huang Zhang’s two comebacks in 2014 and 2017, in the face of such intense competition and rapid changes in the smartphone industry, can the spiritual leader who relies on the apotheosis-style come out to solve the problem again and again? For Meizu, the hope of rebirth is entirely on Huang Zhang, who has been isolated from the outside world for a long time. I am afraid that there must be both expectations of success and preparation for failure.

  After transforming from a dream machine to a small test of the Meizu 15, Huang Zhang claims that the 16 series he has fully built will be released in August this year. If the Meizu 16 does not meet the expectations of the outside world, what should Meizu do?

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