OnePlus: Digital Marketing Strategy Decoded

Feb 2, 2018

OnePlus mobile phones are manufactured by a Shenzen based Smartphone company that was founded in December 2013 by Pete Lau and Carl Pei. The brand is operated by BBK Electronics, a China-based company that owns other Smartphones like OPPO and VIVO. OnePlus has established itself in 38 countries as of 2016.

What OnePlus Mobile Phones Aim to Bring to the Table

OnePlus mobile phones strive to provide a top-notch user experience that would blow competitors out of the water. The brand aims to create high-quality, simplistic, user-friendly products, which organically brings about their tagline, “Never Settle”. The founders believe that the tech-savvy consumer community shouldn’t have to settle for overpriced phones that may not deliver.



Source: OnePlus Store

OnePlus Comes to India

The brand was first introduced to India in December 2014 and has sold over a million phones across the country, thanks to the ever loyal OnePlus community. OnePlus mobile phones came to India to popularise a phone with excellent design, specs and experience without burning a hole in the consumers’ wallets. It has become one of the most popular smartphone brands in the country, giving big brands like Apple, Nexus and Samsung and more than 150 other brands, a run for their money. A survey even states that 85% of smartphone users have switched from other leading brands to OnePlus.


Source: OnePlus India

Marketing Strategies (Online)

OnePlus marketers use the Lean Startup Methodology (Build > Measure > Learn). This kind of approach allows the campaign to adapt to the market. It involves quick implementation, examination and adjustment. A genius move on the part of the company was to discard traditional advertising at the time of launch. The idea was to restrict expenditure on advertising in order to give customers a cost benefit.

The growing tech-tuned community of the world gave OnePlus just the opportunity it needed to gain traction. OnePlus has managed to keep it creative in terms of marketing campaigns, which has also given them a competitive edge. They offered free shipping on purchases over £60. And in London, they even conducted a ‘Delivery in 60 Minutes or Less’ campaign where every OnePlus phone had to be delivered within 60 minutes or it would be free.



Source: OnePlus Community

OnePlus customers are men and women between the ages of 15-45 from metropolitan cities. With a pro-e-commerce consumer market who are willing to buy their products online, traditional marketing schemes seem less enticing for brands like OnePlus. They use only their in-house team to conduct campaigns and have been wary of conventional marketing techniques.

Compared to others in the business, who spend millions buying media; taking the unconventional marketing route helped OnePlus cement their place in the industry. Let’s take a look at some of their campaigns in the Indian market which contributes to 40% of their revenue.

1. Invite System

The invite system created viral waves. Remember being in high-school and everyone wanted to be invited to the most happening party of the year? OnePlus invites made you feel just like that. The invite system first could only be accessed by OnePlus employees and associates who could then send it to whoever they wanted to. This helped create a group of influencers who would promote and get other people to engage with the brand. This strategy helped them gain exclusivity in the market.



Source: @oneplusin

2. Influencer Marketing

Taking influencer marketing to a whole new level, OnePlus built an online forum for technology enthusiasts who could use the platform to discuss various Android app development related queries. This paved the way for these enthusiasts to become the first adopters of OnePlus. Without enforcing themselves on their now 800,000-member-community, they were able to become one of the best-selling phones in India.

3. Tie up with Amazon, Ola & Air Asia

When the very first OnePlus phone in India was released, the tie-up with AmazonIndia helped OnePlus sell over 20,000 phones in no time. They even came up with a unique strategy of allowing Ola and Air Asia customers to request for the phone just to experience it. And during the launch of the OnePlus X, they even created a campaign where the consumers could purchase a OnePlus device through the Ola app and have it delivered within 15 minutes.


Source: YoutubeAmazonIndia

4. Unboxing Ceremony

OnePlus mobile phones garner a lot of attention, but unfortunately the ‘unboxing ceremony‘ was not one of their best ideas. It was quite similar to iPhone unboxing campaign but failed to have the same impact. Nonetheless, the first video featuring Biswa Kalyan Rath deserves credit for its amusing take on unboxing videos.


Source: Youtube OnePlus India

5. Celebrity Endorsement

Big B wants the One.
Though they tried hard not to succumb to traditional methods of advertising, the Indian market can be quite challenging. This is probably why they decided to join hands with actors Amitabh Bachchan, Sushant Singh Rajput, chef Vikas Khanna, comedian Vir Das and more. Picking artists selectively from a variety of industries was an excellent move on the part of OnePlus to appeal to the masses.


Source: YoutubeOnePlusIndia

6. #NeverSettle

Through its marketing campaigns, OnePlus aimed to take their customers on a journey where they can experience the ‘Never Settle’ way of life. The #NeverSettle hashtag proved that you don’t need necessarily need big bucks to make an impact. If you have a great product, customers will be drawn to your brand.



Source: @oneplusin

Marketing Strategies (Offline)

1. Theatre Screenings

OnePlus had live screenings of the launch of the OnePlus 5 in PVR theatres across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune. Fans could book tickets worth Rs.99 on BookMyShow, to be a part of the big reveal.

2. Pop Up Stores

OnePlus realized that many people in the Indian market like to touch and experience the device before purchasing it. To cater to this need, OnePlus set up several pop-up stores in a number of malls and on the high-streets in metro cities. They even entered a partnership with Croma, allowing users to experience the product first-hand.



Source: @oneplusin

3. TV Ads

OnePlus revealed the whole advertisement for the OnePlus 5 during the much-anticipated India vs. Pakistan Championship match. This probably cost a whole lot of money but ensured that they had a lot of eyes on the product.

Keeping an Eye on the Demand

The brand ensures that they always present the latest technologies at the right time – not too early, not too late. Take a look at the older, OnePlus 3T which was released around last Diwali and is now discontinued. OnePlus ensures that their inventory never exceeds the demand. The invite strategy ensured that every single phone they built was sold. Selling products through limited channels allows OnePlus to track inventory levels, which enables them to curb over-investment.



Source: @oneplusin

Competition and Where OnePlus Stands

The brand’s biggest competitors include Samsung, Micromax, Oppo, Motorola, Vivo, Intex, and Apple. Their unconventional methods of marketing unlike other brands that promote heavily across traditional media, helps them stand apart. If an up-and-coming brand like OnePlus had focused heavily on traditional media, perhaps they would have drowned.

A Look at OnePlus’ Failed Campaigns

It’s been quite a bumpy journey though for the OnePlus team in terms of their marketing strategies. Here are a few strategies that went wrong:

1. Ladies First

This international campaign was launched in August 2014 to attract female buyers; it asked women to upload a picture of themselves with the OnePlus logo drawn on their body and gather votes to stand a chance to win a phone. Negative responses on social media compelled the team to take down the campaign immediately.



Source: BGR

2. Smash the Past

Another failed campaign was the ‘Smash the Past’ campaign, where customers were asked to take videos of breaking their old phones to receive an invite to own OnePlus mobile phones. This campaign brought the brand a lot of bad publicity and negative reviews.


Source: Youtube OnePlus

3. KBC Rip Off

Their latest TVC on Indian television featuring actor Amitabh Bachchan and comedian Rohan Joshi featuring the Kaun Banega Crorepathi set and format; was called out for copyright violation by Sony Television Pvt. Ltd. The advertisement had to be taken off the air to avoid a severe lawsuit.


Source: Youtube OnePlus India- OnePlus 5T


OnePlus has captured a huge market in only 4 years. Here are three key lessons for marketers to take note of:

1. Leveraging Influencers
OnePlus used the power of influencer marketing to raise awareness about their products. Using the brand’s own forum to build a community of loyalists was pure genius.

2. Timely Damage Control
When the brand’s social media campaign received negative reaction and criticism, they retracted it and apologized to the public.

3. Inventory Management
The brand has to be commended on their inventory management where they built a fixed number of phones and did not release any new models until all the old models were sold, ensuring that there was no wastage of raw materials.
The brand’s marketing campaigns although unconventional, remain impactful and have helped it stand apart from competitors. Tell us what you love about the OnePlus journey in the comments below.


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