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Huawei plans a 'get to know us' campaign in the U.S.

Huawei has hired a brand consultant and is putting more money into marketing in the second half of the year.

A Pegasus constructed entirely out of Huawei Ascend smartphones sits on the grounds of Mobile World Congress earlier this year in Barcelona, Spain.
Roger Cheng/CNET

Here's the problem with Huawei's image: it doesn't have one.

While known in technology circles, it is a virtual nonentity for many consumers, some of whom are probably unaware they are using a Huawei smartphone.

Huawei, however, wants to change that, and is planning a large U.S. marketing campaign to build consumer awareness of its brand. The company has already worked with its carrier customers -- typically prepaid players such as MetroPCS or Leap Wireless -- to jointly do so. But with the planned campaign, slated for the second half of the year, the company will take a direct hand in promoting its brand.

"We want to raise the overall awareness of the consumer," James Jiang, executive vice president of marketing and product for Huawei's device unit, said in an interview with CNET today.

Huawei's aggressive push runs counter to its fellow Chinese vendor ZTE, which told CNET earlier today that it plans to hold off on any plans to build its own brand, instead preferring to build its relationship with its carrier customers.

Huawei is amid a broader transformation, evolving from a low-cost follower to a leader in innovation. But in the U.S., the lack of awareness has hurt the company's ability to sell high-end devices that occupy that flagship slots at the carriers. With carriers betting tons of money on the success of a device, it's just easier to go with a known brand.

"To continue to grow to be a top manufacturer, you need to have a brand," Jiang said.

Its Ascend D Quad, for instance, is purportedly the fastest phone in the world with a customer processor made by Huawei. It captured a lot of buzz at Mobile World Congress, as did Huawei itself, but the U.S. carriers have shown little interest in carrying it.

Perhaps with a little of brand buzz behind it, Huawei could get more of its advanced phones into the U.S.

Huawei said it has hired Jack Morton Worldwide, a global brand consultancy, to help the company build some consumer awareness.

The company plans to start a grass-roots campaign for Huawei, as well as jump into the social-media world a bit more. It plans to kick off its social-media efforts in the U.S. next month, expanding upon its global presence.

Huawei's campaign will be an overarching effort to get the word out on its devices. Jiang said that he expects multiple device announcements to come next month.