OnePlus Logo

OnePlus One = phone minus sales

Hey everybody and welcome to my first Metserve mobile blog.

For the uninitiated OnePlus are a new smartphone manufacturer. Their unique selling point is was that they “intended” to produce a smartphone, called the +1, to beat all smartphones in specification at a relatively low price. OnePlus were funded by their parent company OPPO (One Plus Plus One anyone?). Although I’ve never handled an OPPO in person on paper they seem like pretty good products.

The OnePlus story, in my view (and that of many others), is a tale of how badly marketing can go wrong and how delivery of a product or service in a timely manner is hugely important.

The OnePlus strap line was “2014 Flagship killer”. Early this year when the phone was announced little was known about it other than some photo renders. Then some spec’s leaked out and on paper it seemed mighty impressive compared to the current crop of phones available at that time. All good so far but then they tried to differentiate themselves through their marketing. Basically you had to apply to win an opportunity to buy one. Yes, you heard me right. It was a lottery. You had to apply (and still do) and even then there was no guarantee you would be able to get one. I took a spin around their forums at the time and this approach seemed to alienate some of those people who had taken a keen interest in the company from the very beginning. They had been there from the start, contributed to the forums, sung OnePlus’s praises for “doing it different” and waited patiently. When the phone was finally available, in presumably limited numbers, those faithful people were asked to apply to part with their hard earned cash. Not a great way to treat the following you have built up.

Since then 1+ have resorted to other marketing hype. Most famously, apparently with the intention of trying to garner interest from the female tech community, they asked women to take a “selfie” with the 1+ logo in the background. Not so bad I hear you say? The 50 “most liked” women would win an “opportunity” to apply to buy the phone.Yeah, not win one, win an opportunity to part with their money ! To top off this calamity they had to remind the entrants, “Ladies, no nudity please”. Now look I get it. You wouldn’t want to have a promotion that encouraged that but SURELY at the point you have to put that rider in someone within the company would have sat back and said, “Does anyone think this might be taken badly?”. One would have thought so, but alas they went ahead and hit the “post” button anyway. Unsurprisingly this backfired and they got called out on it, within their own forums and across the interweb. The competition swiftly got withdrawn.

As I write this the 1+ is STILL not on general sale. The £229 price point for the 16Gb version is still VERY competitive but a lot of people are so over this now it hardly matters, especially for a phone they still can’t go into a store and just buy or order on-line. Another issue here is that the longer this goes on the more “2014 Flagship killer” becomes less and less relevant. Had they just released this phone in the usual fashion and got it into the hands of real people those people would likely have flooded the internet with plaudits. People would have then formed a virtual line to buy it. However we are now over halfway through 2014 and we have the HTC One M8, the Samsung Galaxy S5, the LG G3 and a likely Nexus 6 on the horizon. As more and more high end phones get released the specs of the 1+ start to look less “Flagship” and more like sinking ship. I get why people want to hold out for something different (hell I nearly did and so did Ahmet) but ultimately if you can’t deliver that product in a timely fashion those same people will turn to an alternative. Oh and as a side note, the 1+ flagship killer does not support band 20 LTE (800mhz). So if you want to get 4G in Europe on a carrier that uses those bands you are out of luck. You can read 1+’s response to that here.

So what’s the lesson here? Think carefully about what you offer. Can you deliver it, both figuratively and literally? If you can’t then you probably shouldn’t. Clever marketing is great up to a point but ultimately there has to be a great product that is actually available to follow it up.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this first blog and I’d love to hear your comments, good, bad or otherwise.

Pete