The marketing email began “Dear fanboy/girl…” and went down hill from there. OnePlus, of course, will never be short of coverage while it continues to offer above average smartphones for below average price. However, a few months after the debacle of its ‘Ladies first’ competition, which invited women to draw the OnePlus logo on their body so forum members could vote for their favourite, the company remains curiously inept at judging the tone of its marketing messages.
The competition was quickly cancelled, but not before being widely reported and criticised.
Quite apart from managing the unique feat of seeming both overly familiar (‘Whoop whoop!’ – really?) and yet strangely impersonal (there’s nothing like ‘dear male/female’ to indicate how well you know your customer!), this promotional email also seems oblivious to the market dynamics in its target segment.
Let’s imagine for a minute I was a ‘fanboy/girl’. What are the chances I would identify myself that way, even if that was how others saw me? Even the most rudimentary observation of users would quickly convince OnePlus’ marketing team that the very ‘fanboys’ and ‘fangirls’ they’re targeting employ this term as a negative description, not the kind of positive identifier likely to convince them to buy a smartphone.
That said, OnePlus business model is not without its positive attributes. The purpose of the email was to alert me to a 24 hour window in which I had been invited to buy a OnePlus product. This method of carefully matching demand to inventory is also used by the likes of Meizu and Xiaomi, helping them undercut larger competitors such as Samsung and LG, who have to contend with the complexities of channel management and stock overhangs. It has a dual benefit, creating a ‘scarcity’ value in the mind of consumers, while ensuring OnePlus never ends up with unsold stock, a risk which has seen almost every major manufacturer taking cost writedowns at some point over the last few years.
Personally, OnePlus diverged irrevocably from my particular brand values some time ago, but they provide an interesting example of a new way for device manufacturers to structure themselves in the maturing smartphone market.