Narayan, Head of Marketing, India, OnePlus, talks about the new product launch and maintaining communication with consumers during the lockdown In 2019, OnePlus was the top premium Smartphone manufacturer in India. The brand, also known as the flagship killer, led with 33% market share, leaving behind competitors like Apple and Samsung. With a vision to maintain its leadership in 2020, OnePlus has successfully expanded its portfolio with the launch of OnePlus 8 series amidst the nationwide lockdown. Exchange4media caught up with Siddhant Narayan, Head of Marketing - India, OnePlus, to talk about the new phones and how the brand maintained a successful engagement with its community during the nationwide lockdown. Excerpts from the conversation: While most brands postponed their new releases, you went ahead and launched OnePlus 8 series during the lockdown, digitally. What were the challenges in pulling out a successful event? At OnePlus, our community is at the core of everything we do. We are closely connected to our users and constantly listening to their feedback and expectations from the brand, which helps us innovate, and also create meaningful experiences to engage with them. We have always unveiled our new products along with our community and were cognizant of the growing anticipation around the OnePlus 8 Series. Given that the situation did not allow us to host an on-ground event, we were presented an interesting opportunity to think differently and further enhance our engagement with users via digital platforms. We used this opportunity to host our first-ever global, virtual launch of the OnePlus 8 Series. To ensure we pulled off a successful event, over 2000 team members spread across different time zones worked together while remaining connected and in sync with all developments. It was important for each of us to be flexible and adapt to evolving scenarios to deliver the best outcome. As Pete Lau had mentioned earlier, our launch date was pushed back three times out of concern for the current situation until we decided it was time to move forward with the hope for a better future. In the end, with community members from across the world coming together to witness the unveiling of the OnePlus 8 series, it was truly a wholesome moment for us as a brand. The product launches had been a way of bringing the community together for OnePlus. With a digital launch, how did you manage that? Community engagement through offline activities and events has been central to our engagement efforts. In the absence of this, we identified interesting digital formats to further enhance our engagement with users via owned channels like the OnePlus Forums and Red Cable Club as well as our social media platforms in order to create meaningful user experiences. In the lead-up to the launch of the OnePlus 8 series, we unveiled our Hypertaskers campaign to celebrate our community, a generation that seamlessly switches between a diverse range of roles, while attuned to performing tasks at incredible speed enabled by the cutting-edge technology on the OnePlus 8 Series. The campaign focuses on engagement across digital and social media platforms and pays homage to the HyperTasker spirit of every OnePlus user. Post the launch of our OnePlus 8 series, our community was eager to get hands-on experience with the new flagship devices. However, given the restrictions during the lockdown, that would have not been possible. Therefore, we created a unique digital initiative for our community to unbox the all-new OnePlus 8 series virtually using the innovative customized AR filters on Instagram. This led to a highly positive brand engagement with our OnePlus community and consumers at large, across India and achieved nearly 98 million impressions online. We ran an online contest for the most creative AR unboxing ideas and received more than 1000 entries within 2 weeks. Before the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, India was one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets in the world. With the disruption in the supply chain, the growth was hindered a bit, but now that the e-commerce platforms are active again, how has the consumer reaction been so far? The OnePlus 8 Pro is probably our most complete flagship till date and has been curated to deliver OnePlus’ promise of a burdenless experience. With a stunning 120 hz display, 5G capabilities, a 48 MP Quad camera set up and signature OnePlus smoothness, this device is everything our community has asked for. They have been our consistent soundboard for bettering and perfecting our products at every level. We have seen tremendous interest from the community for the OnePlus 8 Series both on social platforms and during our flash sales and we're very excited for them to experience these devices that the brand, as well as the community, have come together to create. Reports suggest that smartphones will be a basic necessity in 'new normal'. What are your views on this? Also, now that most markets are opening, are there any specific markets that are performing better than others? Given the guidelines for social distancing and the new norm of working remotely, smartphones have definitely become a more vital part of our lives as compared to earlier. It is that one device that enables you to seamless switch between work, entertainment, connecting with friends and family as well as purchasing essentials and digital transactions. I believe this trend will continue to prevail even once all market open as smartphones given the numerous user benefits. OnePlus 8 just went on sale. How has the initial audience reaction been? Our community has been quite ecstatic about the new OnePlus 8 Series 5G and the feedback has been largely positive. The OnePlus 8 5G has sold out in minutes during our early access sales and even emerged as the best-selling premium smartphone of the day on Amazon.in. We are very excited for our users to experience the OnePlus 8 Pro 5G as well. At a time of crisis, maintaining meaningful communication became important for brands. What did you do to keep the consumer engaged? It has been our main priority to remain closely connected with our community during this time. We are constantly exploring different ways to curate content and experiences that our users will connect with as we all navigate this new normal. We recently concluded OnePlus Domin8, a unique PUBG MOBILE tournament for our community that will also allow them to virtually interact with pro gamers and Indian cricketers and compete in a one-of-a-kind exhibition match series. This initiative was received with much fanfare by our community. For our Red Cable Club (RCC) members, we introduced the ‘Summer of OnePlus’ campaign which gave them access to special activities and first-hand news on sales announcements, exclusive updates, contests and much more. Through the above-mentioned initiatives and even with seemingly simple campaigns like #IndoorsShotonOnePlus, we hope to reassure our users and let them know that we’re all in this together. The lockdown rendered most conventional ways of marketing useless, but digital came out as an essential platform for brands in the pandemic-hit world. Did you strengthen your online presence during this period? OnePlus has always been a digital-first brand and that served as an advantage as we grew and evolved through the years. The new norms have definitely led to a spike in content consumption online so there has been a natural lean towards digital platforms with more people spending their time on the web and on social media. However, we’re taking the time to understand and analyze the patterns in consumption and identify relevant channels such as search, social media, or email, in order to effectively communicate with our target audience. What had been your preferred marketing and media mix during lockdown, now that markets are opening, would you change your strategies and return to conventional advertising platforms like OOH, print and broadcast? Every brand curates its marketing strategy with the primary objective of fortifying its consumer connect. As we have always closely engaged with our 5 million strong OnePlus community in India via our owned digital platforms and on social media, the changing norms did not drastically impact our marketing strategy but gave us the opportunity to do things differently in order to further strengthen our connection with our user base. This will continue to be our focus even as the restrictions get lifted. We have always aimed to refrain from being too aggressive on traditional media platforms as this inhibits effective two-way communication with our users. However, we’re constantly exploring new and innovative ways to drive conversations with our community and are always open to experiment and try something different if it is in line with our brand ethos. You recently organised Domin8 PUBG mobile tournament, what was the idea behind that? Summer in India is synonymous with cricket, so we wanted to bring the power of cricketers and gamers together and offer our community a unique opportunity to see and engage with their favourite cricketers in a new avatar. We also see mobile gaming as a great opportunity to connect with the youth of the country and it is also a key area of interest among our user community. At OnePlus, our decisions primarily tie back to what our community wants and how best we can create an experience that caters to their interests without losing our vision of focusing on useful innovations that can make our lives easier. With OnePlus Domin8, we saw a great opportunity for our power users and hardcore gamers to be part of this unique opportunity to virtually interact with pro-gamers and Indian cricketers and experience the fast performance of PUBG Mobile on the new OnePlus 8 series, which we believe is one of the best devices for gamers Are there any other star-studded tournaments in the pipeline? The OnePlus community is at the heart of all our efforts and we’re always looking at working on more unique engagements that will add value to our users. We intend to keep up the momentum in 2020 and have a lot of exciting initiatives planned for the rest of the year. Stay tuned for updates!