Namah Chawla
Interviews

“Nothing can replace going to the market and spending time with people who sell our devices”: Damyant Singh Khanoria, OPPO

A chat with OPPO India’s CMO about the mobile brand’s latest campaign, ad spends during the IPL and festive season, the challenges ahead, and more.

To highlight its commitment of providing the best after-sales services to the customers, OPPO India recently rolled out three digital films that captured the chronicles of ‘Sharma-Verma’. Conceptualised by Havas Creative, the campaign takes the viewers on a journey with the duo to an OPPO store to know how reliable the whole repair/inspection process is.

Each video features an after-sales service, such as free inspection, 30-day replacement, and quick service and repair.

OPPO India has also introduced ‘Ollie’, an AI-powered chatbot that is available 24X7 for all consumer queries. There is also a platinum care hotline for ‘Reno’ and ‘Find’ users that provides support in both Hindi and English.

In an interview with afaqs!, Damyant Singh Khanoria, CMO, OPPO India, talks about the campaign, ad spends during the Indian Premier League (IPL) and festive season, the challenges ahead, and more.

Edited excerpts:

Most smartphone brands tend to focus on specs and features in their ads. What made you choose after-sales services for OPPO’s recent campaign?

After-sales service is one of the most important consumer experiences. It drives customer satisfaction. With this campaign, we wanted to put the spotlight on the things that OPPO strives to do to ensure that our consumers have the best possible experience of owning our products.

The campaign came on the back of making the consumers realise the benefits of what our brand can provide, in terms of after-sales experience. After-sales service, as a messaging platform, is consistently present throughout the year. But with this campaign, we have taken it ‘above the line’.

There are three issues that these films highlight. Was there a particular customer pattern that led to this campaign?

When people give their mobile phones for servicing, one of their biggest concerns is, when will they get it back? Most of us don’t own a spare phone. The biggest pain point that the consumers have is the timely (quick) repair of their phones.

Free inspection came out of the insight that the consumers don’t like spending too much money on getting their phones repaired. The 30-day replacement (option) comes from the sense of confidence we have in our product. However, if the consumers aren’t having an experience that we want them to have, there is that phone replacement option.

Let us talk about the media mix. Is it more towards digital? And, with people now able to go out of their homes, how is outdoor looking, at the moment?

The media mix is all about the balance. We have been indoors for 18 months. This specific campaign was digital and targeted. So, we didn’t use television, or outdoor.

The marketing mix is about being able to create an impact around our advertising, and also leveraging digital to reach out to the consumers in a targeted way. We have now got back to leveraging the power of each media platform.

Does Google’s cookie-free policy have an impact on your marketing strategies, as it is now challenging to know what the users are looking for?

We have a clear sense of how we want to reach out to the consumers. Our focus is to put across a message that is impactful so that we don’t have to always chase the consumer.

Creativity and impactful messaging have been the two differentiators for OPPO - an ad that brings a smile on your face and still has a relevant message for the consumers.

From a marketing standpoint, it also becomes easier for us to deal with the changes, with this philosophy. Creativity is a priority for us, rather than worrying about chasing the consumer.

Since it is the IPL and festive season, let us talk about the ad spends, specifically for the smartphone category.

It is that time of the year when everyone is going to be quite active. There is going to be a lot of product launches and the consumers will also purchase more. There will be a surge in ad spends and marketing to reach out to the consumers.

We are also going to be quite active during this period. We have some interesting announcements and product launches coming up. We look forward to the consumers building up to Diwali in a significant way.

For the times that we all have been through, a smartphone is not just another device that we own, as it holds our entire world. What are some of the dominant trends that you have noticed in terms of consumers sentiment?

The way people perceive, or buy a smartphone has not changed. But its role has evolved dramatically, as it has become the default device of choice that you sit with all day long, especially now, in this work from home culture.

The camera, performance, battery life, are still very important parameters one considers while choosing a product. A trend that we have seen over the last six months is that the consumers want to future-proof themselves.

A trend that we have seen over the last six months is that the consumers want to future-proof themselves.

In the context of a smartphone, it means that people are increasingly looking at buy 5G devices. 5G has become a very important parameter that the consumers are now considering while purchasing a device.

With the work from home scenario, are consumers looking out for better (upgraded) mobile phones? So, if the laptop dies, they can simply resume work on their phones.

Yes, the consumers are looking for more capable devices now. They realise that there is a need to do more with their smartphones. That means there is a need to manufacture more capable devices.

The upgrading cycle has become stronger than what it was in the past, as people are no longer willing to settle for basic phones. There is a gradual increase in the average selling price of the devices. This also helps us to come up with path-breaking technology for our smartphones.

The upgrading cycle has become stronger than what it was in the past, as people are no longer willing to settle for basic phones.

What do you do to stay up to date with the latest trends, or your competitors, and how do you ensure that you stay ahead of the curve?

I read a lot. For me, reading is not only restricted to business, or A&M publications. I read fiction, non-fiction, and my go-to news publications are The Guardian and The Economist.

From a cultural standpoint, it is important to read the reports on social platforms. It gives you a sense of how the consumers are responding, and track their behaviours. Nothing can replace going to the market and spending time with people who actually sell our devices.

You have been in the brand marketing space for over two decades. What are the main challenges that marketers face?

The biggest challenge for me, is not being able to be with my team. I joined OPPO during the (COVID) pandemic. So, I have barely met my full team in real life. I know them only through Zoom calls.

Working is all about the chemistry that you are able to build with your team. Team chemistry elevates the quality of work. So that, for me, is a big miss.

The second is the unpredictability of how things have transpired and evolved over the last 18 months. It has been a massive challenge for us. India is a big country, and how consumers behave and what they relate to, varies. Lately, we have also not been able to spend time in various parts of the country to understand consumer sentiments.

Last, what are some of your go-to stress-busting strategies?

I love spending time in the market, and have not been able to do that lately. The pandemic has taught us to be innovative. We are now doing things that we never thought of, like doing shoots remotely over Zoom calls. So, it is truly commendable how we have responded to these challenges.

I play sports like football and golf over weekends. And, there is nothing like spending time with your family. There is a joy to that which is irreplaceable.