This post is a quick ramble about why I think OnePlus is losing the plot.
While I am sure there will be many posts (especially online) written about how great the OnePlus 5 is, considering how digital savvy the they are, I have a feeling that they have been on the way down after their first device. Here’s why
The brand was essentially built on 2 things – high spec to price ratio and an invite and online only purchase model. Combined they gave the owners – the tech geeks – something of a bragging rights. While the invite only model, might have been necessitated due to compulsion, it gave them a great handle on their marketing. They knew exactly how much the demand was and knew when to turn on or off their marketing investments. They let go of this once their production capacities got fixed. And that’s also when they went haywire with their marketing strategy (more below).
Pricing (best technology at dirt cheap prices) was also a critical part of their strategy. In India, they only end up pushing the lower spec version (usually the 64GB version and not the 128GB one; 16 GB version and not the 32 GB version etc.) as its unit price is lower; knowing fully well how price conscious the consumer here is. And they have been royally messing with this pricing equation. Every new model is priced roughly Rs 3,000 higher and takes a big set of customers out of the equation.
- Oneplus One: Rs 21,999
- Oneplus 2: Rs 24,999
- Oneplus X: Rs 16,999
- Oneplus 3: Rs 27,999
- Oneplus 3T: Rs 29,999
- Oneplus 5: Rs 32,999 (probably)
The newer versions take the phone well out of the reach of just out of college tech enthusiasts. These guys I presume, are its loudest proponents creating all they hype that Oneplus keeps getting online and offline.
The Oneplus One was a great device, it boasted the best hardware that was on offer and packaged it nicely at an incredible price. Then they went downhill. They’ve not kept pace with the latest hardware on offer; often integrating it at a later day than competition. Today, the Oneplus 5 is definitely not the phone with the best hardware – they don’t have optical image stabilization, don’t have the best resolution screen on offer, don’t have the bezel-defying display others have, don’t even have a waterproof design.
The other big thing starting to turn against them is the perception of being copycats. Big design elements and hardware are borrowed/copied wholesale from Oppo (their parent company) and Apple. This was ok a couple of years before when they started off and were perceived as an independent upstart. Now almost every tech enthusiast know what Oneplus and Oppo relationship is.
Then, there is the software issue. Their tie-up with Cyanogen soured (which was beyond their control) and they had to invest in an in-house software development team for Oxygen OS. While the hardware might still be top of the line (close to), their software isn’t. With each new version of their phone, they stop supporting the older versions. This I am sure is frustrating and pissing off older Oneplus owners who would be looking out of the Oneplus brand for their upgrades.
Finally to my pet grouse, I have very little idea about what they do internationally in this department. But, going by the hype they manage to generate at every launch, they seem to be getting it generally right in this department. In India though, they have a lousy marketing strategy most probably let down by the team heading it. Why? From a digital media and word of mouth only communication plan, they moved to print first. And in print, they relied heavily on front page ads which ran for days together. Agreed, they make an impact and have a wider reach, but they also suck out huge monies from your P&Ls. Then they moved to TV. While the initial ads were made for digital medium, they soon forgot their marketing philosophy and hired Amitabh Bachchan and made an ad which had to be pulled out as they made false claims. Now they regularly hire celebrities and make pointless ads.
- Oneplus – brand film: Ok. I get it. You want to talk about the brand philosophy. But, I fail to understand why they didn’t make the phone the center piece?
- Oneplus 3 – dash charge: An extravagantly wasteful film (read storytelling) promoting the phones key feature – a charger!
- Oneplus 3T – The best rated smart phone: A celebrity and a lie.
Finally, ‘Never Settle’, their philosophy is such a huge bull****. They always ‘settle’. Check this Verge video about OnePlus 5. It reveals a number of things they have ‘settled’ on for the 5.