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Huawei pleads global brand ambition, and a softer side

At Mobile World Congress, Huawei earnestly vows to become a top-tier consumer brand.

Huawei Ascend P2
Huawei's Ascend P2 launched alongside the company's vow to deliver on its brand promise. Sarah Tew/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--It's a vow we've heard many times before: Huawei will be a top global brand.

Here at Mobile World Congress, Huawei used its press conference as yet another opportunity to plead its softer side.

Addressing a room full of journalists, Huawei's director of global brand management, Amy Lou, passionately shared Huawei's philosophy for aggressively pursuing its dream of becoming a major mobile heavyweight. Sweeping imagery of Earth and dust, and powerful language like "visionary" and "spirited" signaled a new step for Huawei, one that's far more philosophical and emotional than its usual clinical presentation (which played a role, too).

Huawei is a brand that "we believe will be as familiar, appealing, as powerful as any name you will see this week in Barcelona," Lou said, voice filled with idealistic fervor. Building a global brand "takes time, investment, and consistency," she added.

This year is Huawei's 10th anniversary year with consumer devices, and Lou wants you to know it's been quite a journey. Huawei is shifting from an ODM, a nameless original device manufacturer, to an OEM, an original equipment manufacturer with a distinct brand identity.

In addition, 2013 sees Huawei making a more aggressive push bringing premium smartphones to market. In the U.S., for example, Huawei smartphones are still seen as more entry-level and midtier devices. Huawei has been yearning for years to change that, and if the company has its way, this year will be the one where it breaks through.

It's been a tough road for Huawei, which struggled for years against the perception that it spies on nations through its networking infrastructure gear. That's on top of its poor brand name recognition outside its home territory of China.

The uncomfortable position isn't lost on Huawei's Lou, who acknowledged the importance on delivering quality products that outshine the competition as part of a slow march toward brand domination of the kind enjoyed by Samsung and Apple.

"We can't promise the Earth and deliver dust," she said. "We have to earn the right."