The legacy of Ericsson HotLine

Ad from ERAs HotLine campaign for mobile phones, featuring the recurring character Harry HotLine.

The HotLine campaign ran between 1986 and 1992 and afterwards Ericsson was in many ways a different company. At first it was met with a lot of skepticism within the company, especially from management and senior executives. But many of the employees soon came to love it; the HotLine campaign was something completely new, it was eye-catching and exciting; it was a lot of fun!

The most significant effect, however, was that it was the last time that Ericsson would market any other brand than Ericsson.

When GSM networks began coming on line in the early 1990s, it was time for Ericsson to launch the second generation of mobile phones. Because they would be marketed in many more countries than previously, a definitive decision was made to drop HotLine and to instead market Ericsson as a brand. From this moment, the strategy was to work conscientiously to establish Ericsson as a world leader.

When consumers talk about their phones today, they say that they have an Ericsson or a Nokia, sometimes adding a model number. But then, when the HotLine name was abandoned, this was not as self-evident. On the contrary, many of Ericsson’s competitors had given their phones imaginative names.

Anders Larsson, who worked on the HotLine campaign in Sweden, remembers the first time he used Ericsson as brand in a mobile phone advertisement.

- It was when we were no longer able to use HotLine and had already booked advertisements on the back of the airport buses. What could we say about our phones now? We changed the ads and wrote instead ‘Have you got an “Ericsson,” too?’ We had never called a mobile phone an Ericsson, and it seemed so strange that we put quotes around Ericsson, he recalls.

When the Mobile Telephones division was established in 1987, Kjell Johansson was marketing manager. Looking back on the HotLine era, he feels that it was fortunate that there was not a tradition within Ericsson of working with consumer products.

- We could start something new and fresh. That was a big advantage, compared with several competitors whose mobile phones disappeared in the flood of their other consumer products. At Ericsson, mobile phones were very visible and contributed to selling all of Ericsson.

Jan Ahrenbring, was one of the persons behind the HotLine campaign and responsible for the Swedish market. He summarized the HotLine years as follows.

- HotLine was a great success. In fact it was too successful in certain countries. HotLine began to take over the Ericsson brand, which was not at all intended. The intention was that it should be a product name, while Ericsson was the brand. But HotLine somehow became too strong. It was a lesson for all of us who work with brands. You have to know what brand you are supporting.

Author: Pontus Staunstrup and Marika Ehrenkrona

Mobile phone, R250s PRO, c. 1999

Mobile phone, R250s PRO, c. 1999


From the first campaign that used Ericsson as the brand name instead of HotLine.

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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