In­fil­trat­ing Minds

OnePlus’ Di­wali spot re­sem­bles an ad for a net­work­ing app.

The Brand Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Abid Hus­sain Bar­laskar abid.bar­[email protected]

How to make good use of the user com­mu­nity.

Smart­phone brand OnePlus’ lat­est Di­wali com­mer­cial lever­ages its fan-base and com­mu­nity fol­low­ing to in­fil­trate con­sumer minds. Usu­ally, phone brands em­pha­sise a classy fea­ture with an in-your-face sort of mes­sage or build a story around it. How­ever, OnePlus’ lat­est ad doesn’t talk about fea­tures and lacks a de­cent vis­ual of the phone it­self.

The ad, in­stead, rides on an idea of co­he­sion within the brand’s user com­mu­nity which cuts across in­ter­na­tional bound­aries. Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity have a OnePlus ‘thing’ in com­mon which at­tracts oth­ers. The com­mu­nity, framed in the ad, de­liv­ers homely Di­wali love to a lonely young In­dian liv­ing abroad. The boy is in­vited to a meet up which is set up by his sis­ter from In­dia via her OnePlus friends.

Other play­ers in the seg­ment have also been map­ping users - Xiaomi routes fan-meets via on­line fo­rums while Ap­ple keeps users stacked on var­i­ous pre­texts like Face­Time.

The ad, de­spite be­ing a Di­wali spe­cial, lacks high-volt­age Di­wali vi­su­als - lights, new clothes, mounds of sweets and, of course, fire­crack­ers.

We also glanced through com­mu­ni­ca­tions from other brands who also re­leased Di­wali-spe­cial ads around the same time:

Alia Bhat clicked a selfie with her Nokia, Kiara Ad­vani praised the fast-charg­ing fea­ture of her Oppo, and Vivo sub­tly praised its cam­era in a emo­tional story. Vivo also played the bring­ing-peo­ple-to­gether card, in a dif­fer­ent con­text though. And Huawei’s Honor went ahead with a fam­ily ‘groufie’.

With re­gard to the OnePlus com­mu­nity, bring­ing strangers closer seems like a thing for so­cial me­dia or on­line dat­ing/get-to­gether plat­forms like Tin­der, for ex­am­ple, is a lo­ca­tion-based so­cial and dat­ing app which helps peo­ple find love or other like-minded peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the smart­phone cat­e­gory has mostly been oc­cu­pied by fea­tures with each brand hav­ing a flag­ship model or a ‘flag­ship-killer’ of its own.

So why did OnePlus lever­age its mee­tups and not the phone?

Vikas Agar­wal, gen­eral man­ager, OnePlus In­dia, de­fines the OnePlus mee­tups as in­for­mal com­mu­nity events or­gan­ised for users, mostly by the fans. Some­times the brand also or­gan­ises these, of­fi­cially.

“These are or­gan­ised by users who are core com­mu­nity mem­bers and have been with us for some time. Our idea is to un­der­stand users bet­ter. While most of our busi­ness hap­pens on­line, we are con­scious of hav­ing an off­line iden­tity as well. This helps us with end-user feed­back,” he ex­plains.

Speak­ing about the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­ing less about the brand and the phone, Agar­wal says, “Brands con­cen­trate on the prod­uct or the sales as­pect. We did nei­ther. Sales were never our pri­or­ity in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It’s mostly about pro­mot­ing the prod­uct and ed­u­cat­ing users. We don’t ex­ces­sively talk about sales. In a way, we stay away from such com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The en­tire idea of the ad it­self came from com­mu­nity mem­bers.”

“We are dig­i­tal and our sales are largely done on a pull ba­sis. Our users buy the phone be­cause of a rec­om­men­da­tion, a re­view or dig­i­tal vis­i­bil­ity un­like brands that de­pend on om­nichan­nel com­mu­ni­ca­tion for top of the mind re­call and off­line pres­ence. When we started out in 2014, we sold only through in­vi­ta­tions. Each phone would come with three in­vi­ta­tions which the user could share with oth­ers. Word of mouth is in­te­gral to our jour­ney. That’s why we con­cen­trate so much on the com­mu­nity as­pect,” he adds.

In Agar­wal’s words, OnePlus lis­tens to its tech-savvy and de­mand­ing users and then con­cen­trates on sat­is­fy­ing their needs.

Ameya Lokhande, VP, Happy mc­gar­ry­bowen, the agency that crafted the film, says, “Dur­ing Di­wali, most brands speak about cel­e­bra­tion and home­com­ing. But there are peo­ple who have moved to dif­fer­ent cities or coun­tries and only a few can come home. We wanted to cap­ture their emo­tions and how the brand can play a role in mak­ing their Di­wali spe­cial too. Af­ter a cou­ple of brain­storm­ing ses­sion with the OnePlus team, we heard sto­ries of com­mu­nity mem­bers who are abroad for work and are join­ing the mee­tups there. We re­alised this is some­thing that truly stands out.”

TURN­ING TO THE EX­PERTS

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant Karthik Srini­vasan is of the opin­ion that although most of the OnePlus films look like Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tions turned into video and that the brand lit­er­ally uses a press re­lease from Coun­ter­point Re­search

The ad rides on an idea of co­he­sion within the brand’s user com­mu­nity.

“Sales were never our pri­or­ity in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It’s mostly about pro­mot­ing the prod­uct and ed­u­cat­ing users.” VIKAS AGAR­WAL

in the name of print ad­ver­tis­ing, this is per­haps the most emo­tive and ex­pres­sive self of the brand.

“Most smart­phones have now reached sat­u­ra­tion lev­els when it comes to fea­tures - 3700 mAh be­comes 4000 mAh, three cam­eras be­come four etc. Given all this, it makes sense that OnePlus is talk­ing about its users and while do­ing so, show­ing what a close­lyknit com­mu­nity they are across the globe,” Srini­vasan says.

“I own a OnePlus 5T and am happy with the phone. The phone is not the ab­so­lute/in­cred­i­ble best in any one way but does ev­ery­thing on an above-av­er­age level. So, since there’s noth­ing unique to shout from the rooftop, it seems ob­vi­ous that they keep the brand­ing sub­tle and fo­cus on peo­ple us­ing the phone and show how they have a thing in com­mon - trust in a phone brand that is won­der­fully sat­is­fy­ing. The sell­ing point of the ad is the fact that so many peo­ple across the world have put their faith in a smart­phone brand and like meet­ing up or dis­cussing that brand trait,” Srini­vasan adds.

Ajay Gahlaut (ex-deputy CCO, Ogilvy In­dia), says, “It is less of a hard sell sort of ad and more of what we to­day call ‘con­tent’. In this case, what works, in the end, is the prod­uct it­self i.e. the phone. The good fea­ture-price ra­tio is work­ing for the brand.”

“The ad in it­self is just an­other story which oth­ers are telling too. It has its own emo­tional lay­er­ing and it doesn’t work too much. The only con­nect is the ‘one com­mu­nity’ idea and it aids other ac­tiv­i­ties that the brand is car­ry­ing out. As a stand-alone ad it wouldn’t do much, but it would lend sup­port in con­junc­tion with the other ac­tiv­i­ties,” Gahlaut adds. ■

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