Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus might be the newest entrant in the competitive and crowded smartphone category but it is not letting this daunt it in anyway. The company first came to attention for its radical “invite-only” system; hence the eponymous OnePlus One.
The OnePlus One, launched less than a year and a half ago, was a runaway success globally—by the end of 2014, the OnePlus One had recorded sales in excess of 1 million units; with about 7 per cent from India. This despite the fact that, as Vikas Agarwal, GM (India) at OnePlus, told us, India was not initially part of the plan as the company wanted to focus on markets in US and Europe. Over 250,000 units have been sold in India so far according to Agarwal.
Last week, One Plus announced the official launch of its new model, the, perhaps unimaginatively named, OnePlus 2. The phone goes on sale in India from August 11 and once again the company is planning to shun traditional advertising and marketing channels.
“We do not believe in doing traditional marketing as it passes on the cost of the marketing activity to the consumer. We are looking at a long term goal—our customers want a flagship product but they do not want to pay the premium prices of a Samsung or an Apple,” said Agarwal. He claimed that the company’s marketing budget was “negligible”.
The OnePlus 2 was announced via a digitally streamed virtual reality (VR) conference that took the attendees on a tour of the company’s headquarters and a look at the new device. According to Agarwal, the company decided against taking the usual route of a launch conference as it would have restricted the reach of the event. The VR launch, which is touted to be the first of its kind, was viewed by 150,000+ globally.
Like its elder sibling, the OnePlus 2 will also be available exclusively from Amazon and will be invite only. Agarwal justifies the invite-only model by saying that it enables the company to manage its inventory though he did not rule out the possibility that there would special ‘non-invite’ days in the future.
Though, it does not believe in traditional marketing, Agarwal admits that there would be promotional activities carried out by the company as it seeks to explore new consumer segments especially in Tier II and III cities and the “non techie” section of consumers.
“Our focus is on building communities so there will be priority given to this. We are looking at roadshows and fan events in different cities. We will also be working with Amazon for specific campaigns to target the Tier II and Tier III markets,” he informed us. However, he would not divulge any other details as he claimed the plans were still in the drawing board phase.
OnePlus is not the only smartphone maker eschewing traditional marketing channels in favour of word-of-mouth publicity and building fan and community-based networks. Another Chinese company, Xiaomi has also had a lot of success following this philosophy.
When we asked Agarwal whether he expects this model to become more relevant among smartphone companies in the future, he said, “In the long run not many brands are able to sustain themselves. Over time, consolidation in marketing spends will definitely happen. Brand will realize that customers do not want to pay a high amount but want the premium features. Marketing includes huge costs which are then passed on to the consumer and it is not sustainable to do this. It is more manageable to focus on the value that you are providing the consumer and the product.” He also pointed out that OnePlus does not launch more than one product an year, which gives them enough time to concentrate fully on the product.
The company is targeting sales of 1 million units in India this year (for both models). “We have already crossed 1.9 million registrations globally. In fact, we crossed 1 million within 72 hours,” says Agarwal.