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Vikas Agarwal

Most smartphone brands believe in carpet bombing when it comes to advertising. But OnePlus has had a more conservative approach when it came to adopting conventional methods.

Its ongoing content initiatives and community engagement programmes, which form a significant part of the brand's marketing budget, keep the OnePlus among the top recalls in the premium smartphone category.

“A large part of our budget goes for brand promotion or our community promotion with content at its centre,” Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India, told BuzzInContent.com.

For OnePlus, traditional advertising is reserved only twice a year. That too during the time of product launches. Even when its biggest competitor Samsung mostly relies on a 360-degree campaign.

“Even on the ATL channels, the kind of marketing we do revolves around content. We do not typically do the traditional form of advertising. The only traditional advertising we do when we launch a new product and that happens only twice a year,” Agarwal said.

Globally, the brand is actively present on social media. In the beginning, one could buy a OnePlus phone if one had an invite. So, it were users promoting the brand within their circles. “Now, we do not have invites but the philosophy still exists. We still want to highlight the good aspects of the brand and product through our users,” he said.

“The form of marketing we really use and try to grow is the word of mouth promotion where we want our users to talk about us. The community engagement and some of this content marketing is related to that philosophy,” Agarwal added.

The smartphone purchase funnel is not very impulsive purchase but it is a fairly expensive purchase for a user. Agarwal believes that nobody is going to buy a smartphone based on some celebrity promoting it. “It is a fairly involved purchase where customers do their research or take suggestions from their tech-savvy friends or family members. So, the best way of promoting smartphone is through word of mouth,” he said. “But then, there are brands that tend to do heavy advertising and most of these brands are offline brands. We are not an offline brand and not in the race to be top-of-mind recall. We want our users to look for us,” he added.

On the brand’s content approach, Agarwal said, “When we communicate technical aspects, features, offers and announcements through advertising, we go very direct. We have done a couple of TVCs during cricket matches and print ads. That advertising has sales as a key focus. But when we look at branding, we make sure that the content is strong enough that can appeal to our core audience.”

With the launch of OnePlus 6T earlier this month, the brand had organised real simultaneous unboxing in Mumbai and tried to establish a Guinness Book of World record for the maximum number of simultaneous unboxing of a product. “The initiative is probably the best community content marketing campaign we have done. Other than that, Diwali videos that we do really resonate well with our users. This was the third year of our Diwali video,” said Agarwal.

Based on the concept of ‘One World. One Family. OnePlus’, the brand’s Diwali video highlighted the significance of its community and the rare bond of users with the brand.

Talking about the objective of the video, Agarwal said, “This is targeted to a very relevant set of users who are very close to our brands. We are not trying to expand our circle of awareness to new users. We have a very closely knit community across the world who have been interacting with us over the last several years. And we wanted to highlight the kind of community meet that we had arranged. In fact, the whole creative was based on similar experience that one of the community members shared with us before. That insight led us to this content.”

While the video is targeted to the users who are already a part of the community, it gives a glimpse of the close-knit community to those who are not a part of it. “Since a lot of users are sceptical about a new brand and something that they are not familiar with, they may get curious and want to explore more when they see the video content. So, that is also a possibility but that is not the key criteria when we develop the community videos,” said Agarwal.

Another content initiative by the brand executed a year back was targeted at the new users where it got some of the star celebrities who were using OnePlus smartphone. The brand took their experiences to its all social media channels.

Besides, OnePlus has partnered with JetSynthesys' digital music and video content creation arm Music Boutique to launch a music property on YouTube titled ‘OnePlus Playback’. With an aim to promote independent music, ‘OnePlus Playback’ will be releasing 10 new music videos sung by the most popular artists in India.

Talking about how OnePlus chooses the form of communication, Agarwal said, “Every form is fine as long as it is engaging the customer. We have done very direct and fact-based communication. In fact, our first main integrated campaign on TV and other channel was a very direct form of communication where we had directly asked which is the best rated smartphone in the country. We have tried emotional routes by communicating our gratitude to our community users. We are open to the entertainment content route as well. If you are going direct, your messaging has to be powerful. In case of emotional route, your messaging has to be more authentic. When you ride on entertainment content, it has to be engaging.”

On the preferred mediums for the content initiatives by the brand, Agarwal said, “It is really about who your core audience is for that campaign. When we were doing our Diwali video, we had community in mind. This kind of content does not make sense on TV or print or any other channel. There is a limited flexibility to do a content marketing campaign in a newspaper. A recent analyst report establishing OnePlus as the number one premium smartphone is something an important news for somebody who is looking to buy a new smartphone. A niche platform will not really see it as a news to promote or talk about from a brand’s perspective. Hence, we did full-page advertisements to educate users about how OnePlus has become the No. 1 brand.”