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OnePlus is changing the way it sells its smartphones

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-09-2017 Soumya Gupta

Mumbai: Chinese premium phone brand OnePlus captured Indian consumers’ imagination with Apple-inspired marketing strategy that included following a calendar of one flagship phone launched every year, an initial “invite only” offer, exclusive product events, and a loyal club of OnePlus fans built largely through digital advertising.

All that is changing. OnePlus is now branching out to physical retail and television and outdoor advertising to attract a larger consumer base, much like related Chinese phone makers Oppo and Vivo.

On Tuesday, OnePlus announced it will sell its phones at electronics retail store chain Croma, owned by Tata Group. This comes after several years when OnePlus sold its mobile phones only online and exclusively on Amazon in India. The latest flagship phone OnePlus 5 will sell in 10 Croma stores across major metro cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai, said Vikas Agarwal, general manager, OnePlus India, in a phone interview.

“The partnership with Croma will greatly benefit youngsters and tech enthusiasts who have heard about the brand but may not have experienced its products,” Agarwal said. “It is a huge opportunity to improve brand awareness and consumer engagement as the premium segment grows in future. The goal is to offer users a chance to hold the device and experience the premium design and the attention to detail.”

Earlier, this opportunity to hold and see the OnePlus was offered through company pop-ups set up for a short time in major cities.

OnePlus has also ramped up its advertising for this new phone with a television advertisement and outdoor advertising for the first time this year. Until now, OnePlus spent only on online advertising, tying up with social media influencers like stand-up comedians.

“We have limited resources and we are selective, but we are open to tapping all channels (of advertising),” Agarwal had said in an interview with Mint. “ATL (above the line) advertising is even smaller, but will account for a higher value because digital is very cost effective,” Agarwal said in the earlier interview. Digital advertising still accounts for 80-90% of all advertising volume that OnePlus spends on.

The company spent its ATL budget almost entirely on billboards outside airports of major cities. “Investment outside of airports (on billboard advertising) is not very effective unless you are overspending like other brands,” he said.

Among these other brands are Vivo and Oppo owned by Gangzhou-owned BBK Electronics. They outspent their competitors to capture 13% and 8% of the Indian smartphone market, respectively, for the quarter ended June 2017, as per data from market intelligence firm IDC. OnePlus founder Pete Lau started his company with money from BBK Electronics that also sells these brands.

However, OnePlus does not figure in the top five smartphone brands in India by market share, which is led by Samsung (24.8%) and Chinese maker Lenovo Group that also sells the Motorola brand, said IDC.

With this pivot in branding and advertising, OnePlus’s marketing and distribution seems more aligned to related brands Vivo and Oppo, rather than Apple which is still a small part of India’s smartphone market.

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