How can brands use outreach marketing to grow their customer base? Below is a case study I built during my Masters degree about OnePlus. It illustrates how the Chinese smartphone manufacturer could effectively involve vloggers in its launch campaign for the OnePlus Two smartphone in order to expand its audience. It is dated early 2015. Enjoy!
Who is OnePlus
Founded in December 2013, Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus competes against smartphone leaders globally by offering high-end phones at much lower prices. The company’s slogan ‘Never Settle’ reflects its innovative and ambitious philosophy. It has shown impressive growth over the past year, achieving $300+ million revenues and hiring 100 employees.
OnePlus One: the smartphone of ‘techies’
Its first smartphone, the OnePlus One which launched in May 2014, has been dubbed ‘the flagship killer’. It received extensive coverage; the International Business Times even called it “the most talked about smartphone in 2014”.
The OnePlus One displays an outstanding price/quality ratio, costing under $300 yet boasting technical elements of equal quality to smartphones in much higher price ranges. OnePlus pays great attention to detail, as shown by its seamless online purchasing process, functional packaging and wide range of high-quality accessories.
The OnePlus One is a niche product, its reputation being widely spread amongst ‘techies’ and ‘geeks’, yet restricted to this segment.
OnePlus’ current digital marketing strategies
The company has a distinctive selling process, in which potential customers can only acquire a smartphone with an Invitation from current owners (similar to Hotmail’s 1996 campaign). Owners are restricted in the amount of invitations they possess.
This has proven highly successful in creating desire through exclusivity. The invitation-only system also makes the ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing process possible. Because OnePlus’ business-model relies on low prices, keeping overhead costs down is crucial.
Additionally, the OnePlus website hosts countless user forums covering many topics, from invitation demands to fan gatherings, and takes an active role by hosting, moderating and participating. As of December 2014, the forums counted 9 million posts from 500,000 members.
OnePlus actively engages with its customers on its forums and social media for marketing as well as NPD purposes. Unlike many other companies, it thrives on open conversation with its customers. As OnePlus itself puts it, “Making a brand inclusive from the beginning is a good idea when you have found your perfect audience; […] we built it together”. Open dialogue creates an intense passion for the brand, which simply cannot be bought.
This exclusivity and passion translates into a significant competitive advantage for OnePlus in today’s mobile-phone landscape where user advocacy reigns.
The OnePlus Two campaign: involving influencers
OnePlus is launching the OnePlus Two smartphone in May 2015. Its campaign will aim to communicate the new smartphone’s values to a wider audience. The OnePlus Two will be made more readily available and comprehensible to a less techie audience, and interaction will be encouraged among members of this wider community.
Finding the right vloggers
Vloggers are rapidly gaining popularity worldwide. These YouTube opinion leaders are ideal buzz agents for the OnePlus Two, as their audience mainly consists of 20-40 year-olds, who represent the majority of smartphone owners. Moreover, their friendly and inclusive attitude towards their follower base creates the required tie strength for effective word-of-mouth marketing.
In order to reach our new audiences of iPhone switchers, non-techies and women, the vloggers will require careful selection. Requirements include:
- Some ‘techie’ knowledge in order to be interested by the campaign
- Appeal to an audience of both genders
- A high number of followers
Ideal vloggers meeting these requirements for the UK are: Jim Chapman, PointlessBlog and Fleur de Force.
The vloggers will be able to ‘translate’ to their fan base important OnePlus Two differentiators in a non-techie, engaging and friendly language. They will also be able to relay the ‘new-ness’ and ‘glam factor’ of having an exclusive smartphone.
Involving vloggers in the campaign
The selected vloggers will be told about the upcoming OnePlus Two launch and asked to entirely customise a phone. Once their unique smartphone is virtually created, one unit will be manufactured so the vloggers can show their design to their followers in a YouTube video.
Followers will then be invited to vote on the OnePlus website for their favourite design between the three vloggers’ customised phones. 100,000 units of the winning design will be manufactured, and the winning YouTuber will receive 75,000 invitations to give out to their followers. The remaining 25,000 will be for sale on the OnePlus website for other customers.
Is there any risk?
As the current OnePlus brand is heavily embedded in its ‘ geek’ culture, the company should proceed carefully. The OnePlus Two is still a techie product, and the brand should be careful not to alter its image too much and risk alienating its core fans. However, this campaign strategy is aligned with previous OnePlus strategies of co-production with its users, and therefore does not deviate too much from its brand essence.
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Interested in vloggers? Read all about why they’re more influential than celebrities!