OnePlus India’s General Manager Vikas Agarwal speaks at length about the growth graph of the digital-first brand, the OnePlus India marketing strategy and the rationale behind roping in Robert Downey Jr to capture the desi market.
“It’s just the community that we have earned with our products,” says Agarwal while stressing on how word of mouth has been the core of the OnePlus India marketing strategy irrespective of what the brand does on TV or digital. The brand announced plans to invest ₹1,000 cr over the next 3 years in its R&D facility in Hyderabad.
Touted to be a digital-first brand, OnePlus has been pioneering the new age medium with innovative content marketing strategy and effective use of traditional and social platforms.
In talks with Social Samosa Agarwal takes us through the brand journey in India since 2014.
The company completes 5 years of operation in the country this year. How would you define the OnePlus India marketing strategy?
The core of our marketing strategy is word-of-mouth, irrespective of what we do on TV or on digital. The OnePlus community has always been actively promoting our flagship products by constantly sharing their positive experiences as well as feedback and on how our products have meaningfully changed their lives.
When we launched the OnePlus One smartphone in 2014, we implemented an “invite-only” strategy wherein customers were invited to buy the product, building a desirable, exclusive brand appeal. This further helped us ensure that we only offer true flagship technology with uncompromising quality to our users. The demand for our smartphone was incredible, and also led skyrocketing traffic to our website, reaching 25.6 million visits in December 2014 – just one year after the OnePlus website was launched.
As a digital brand, we do not spend extensively in the open market offline or on any other Omni-channels.
A large part of the marketing happens on the Amazon platform that is a part of the channel. There, we help in contributing to the ALT channels. Even with social media promotions, our focus remains on emerging social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.
For us, marketing strategies are also a function of timing. So, when there is a launch we go somewhat heavy on marketing because then we have to maximize brand visibility. When there are seasonal sales like Diwali, Amazon does its own promotion as it is our sole e-commerce partner. Other than that, it’s just the community that we have earned with our products, which adds to the territory.
What, according to you is the secret behind the company’s successful running? Also, what is the strategy behind ‘premiumization’?
The two key elements that we rely on are to deliver a premium user experience for our users are high-spec hardware with bloat-free software in the form of OxygenOS. Our product strategy remains to stay focused and invest our energies in one product that is highly efficient and appreciated by the OnePlus Community.
As a digital-first and community-focused brand, we are well connected with our users through social media and online channels like our forums. In addition to that, we conduct events like Open Ears forum where we directly connect with our community and seek valuable product feedback, which helps us further enhance our future offerings. This gives us a very unique positioning and advantage over our competitors, which is very difficult for others to replicate. OnePlus is undoubtedly the brand with the most engaged community base worldwide. Currently, we have over 5 million community members, highest engagement on Twitter with 1.59 million followers and over 1.5 million followers on Instagram, implying how deeply knit we are as a community.
Lastly, our business model is such that we are present largely online. As an Amazon-exclusive smartphone brand, we gained and continue to maintain a more solid structure over our competitors. With growing internet penetration across India, I expect online to continue to grow to become a dominant channel. We will always look out for offline opportunities given how a large segment of Indian users are still heavily offline based, But our sales focus will be based on the online channel, and offline will add to top off our online strength.
What is the current market share of OnePlus like? How has the last quarter been?
Last quarter has been really good for us. Driven by the launch of the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, we have successfully captured 43% of the premium market segment. OnePlus holds more than 60% market share in the ₹30,000 – ₹45,000 segment, and with the launch of the OnePlus 7 Pro, we have a 26% market share in the ₹45, 000 plus segment. Collectively we have a 32% market share overall, with a clear lead in the ₹30,000 – ₹45, 000 segment. (According to Counterpoint Market Research Q2 2019).
Recently, Robert Downey Jr replaced Amitabh Bachchan for the ambassadorship. Take us through the story
We have always believed in creating exceptional experiences for our community. The common ground in our ideologies and values convinced us that Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect representation of our brand’s Never Settle spirit.
What does Downey bring on the table for OnePlus India and how will he impact the brand’s image in India?
OnePlus believes in bringing the same level of premium user experience to its users in India as it does across other regions worldwide. Similar to OnePlus’s brand identity, Robert Downey Jr is known for his unconventional approach to the characters he plays and powerful storytelling ability. Both Robert Downey Jr and OnePlus are known to disrupt the industry norms and bringing transformational experience to the people. In fact, our ad was written by Robert Downey Jr himself.
Please shed light on your India-only strategy when it comes to consumer insights, behavior, marketing, and promotion?
We have initiated a few strategies keeping in mind the needs and expectations of our Indian users. India as a community is the brand’s eye to the globe, a soundboard for experimentation through which the company also understands the pulse of the customer at a global level. For example, an Indian customer is a very experience-driven customer to date. Being an online-first company, we realized we would require some tweaks in our business model. Therefore, we set up a large scale Experience Store in Bangalore as an additional offline touchpoint for our customers to personally engage with the brand. Following its success, we are now present in over 1500 offline outlets for our customers in key markets across the country.
Similarly, after-sales service is something that is very important for the Indian customer. Keeping this in mind, we are also setting up large-scale state-of-the-art exclusive service centers in key cities to provide our customers with premium after-sales services in line with our unique product offerings. Seeing the potential that we have unlocked with India, we may replicate these learnings in other markets as well.
How are you taking on to your competition?
We don’t devise our strategy based on what competition is doing and have always focused on creating unique, differentiated experiences for our users. Our latest step in this direction in the OnePlus Music Festival that will take place in Mumbai in November. No other smartphone brand is specifically associated with music; it strongly resonates with the youth at large and our user community and transcends all forms of cultural boundaries.
While you have said a lot about digital when it comes to the functional use of the medium, how do you use it in the OnePlus India marketing strategy?
OnePlus has also been a digital-first brand as this allows for active two-way communication between the brand and our audience and empowers users to voice their opinions, feedback, and suggestions on a real-time basis. This also enhances brand transparency and has played a vital role in building a loyal community of OnePlus users who have been our most vocal supporters as well as valuable critics on digital platforms. Digital has also helped us cut the noise and remain focused on genuine user matters.
Additionally, community engagement through offline activations has been central to our marketing strategy since the brand’s inception.
From an advertising standpoint, social media, especially YouTube is the most effective sustenance promotion channel to drive awareness among new users.