Sunit Roy

"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India

We spoke to the MD and CEO of Gionee India about his new ad that highlights the phone's selfie feature, something rival brands Oppo and Vivo are also going to town with.

Gionee, the Chinese cell phone brand, recently launched an ad campaign featuring brand ambassador Alia Bhatt. Titled 'Selfiestan', the campaign highlights how the cultural phenomenon of the 'Selfie' exposes a very basic human desire - to get noticed, appreciated and express ourselves freely. While the campaign has been created by Mullens Lintas, Initiative Media (India) is the media agency that has worked on the communication.

"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
Interestingly, ever since the front camera feature was introduced by Motorola and Sony Ericsson in early 2000, selfie wars are heating up in the global smartphone market. More and more brands seem to be joining the bandwagon. A couple of years ago, Korean electronics giant LG unveiled its 'Magna' handset with a 5-megapixel, front-facing camera for selfies, to enable users to take pictures with a simple hand gesture. Then came Taiwanese rival HTC's launch of Desire EYE with a 13-megapixel, front and rear camera, followed by Chinese manufacturer Huawei unveiling the Ascend P7 with an 8-megapixel, front camera.

Ironically, with more and more Chinese brands such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi making their debut in Indian mobile phone market, the competition is getting tougher as the front-facing camera is becoming an increasingly important differentiator for smartphone makers. More so because in the mass / mid-price segment (up to Rs 35,000) where most of the brands are talking only about one feature - the front camera.

"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
While Oppo launched an ad campaign for its N1 handset, featuring Hrithik Roshan and Sonam Kapoor in 2014, last year the brand launched an ad film to promote its A57 - Selfie Expert, featuring cricketer Yuvraj Singh and actors Tamanna Bhatia and Amy Jackson. Oppo has recently launched a new campaign, featuring actor Deepika Padukone, for its 'Selfie Expert' smartphone - the F3 Plus with dual cameras at the front, a 16MP primary camera with an aperture of f/2.0 and an 8MP secondary camera with a 120 degree wide angle lens that allows for group selfies spanning a 105 degree field of view.
"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
Vivo too launched a campaign last year, featuring actor Ranveer Singh, to promote its V5 handset with a 20 megapixel Moonlight Selfie Camera. And now, with the launch of A1 in India, followed by a high-decibel campaign featuring Alia Bhatt, Gionee has upped the ante for cell phone makers.

A smartphone, however, is sold under five key clusters / parameters, namely - looks and design, storage capacity (2/4 GB RAM and 16/32 GB ROM), processor speed (whether it is a Quad-core or Octa-core processor), camera (front and rear), and price. Unfortunately, no brand is reaching out to consumers effectively. Having a tendency towards narcissism is just one aspect of a consumer's personality. There are other facets of consumers, which smart phone brands can tap. Secondly, since most of the brands are creating feature-based communication, there is no brand loyalty because nowadays, consumers are willing to buy phones with impressive features at an optimum price. Thirdly, this category lacks real innovation. Usually, brands are engrossed in spec enhancement - from 2 GB to 4 GB RAM / from 8MP to 16MP camera / from 4000mAH to 5000mAH battery. Last but not the least, most brands are running a rat race in getting celebrities and spending heavily on stylised communications. Therefore, with so many smartphone brands marketing their products on the back of the 'selfie', it has become almost a blind spot.

"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
So, we asked Arvind Vohra, MD & CEO, Gionee India, what gave the brand the confidence to go ahead and hinge an entire campaign around the selfie, when rivals are doing same. He answers, "While we are aware of other brands' aims and claims of being good for selfies, our campaign, concept and objective are completely unique - to give all of us Indians a sense of ownership and belonging by creating 'Hindustan ki selfies'. The objective was to emanate a feeling of unity and break barriers of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences...."

He adds, "#Selfiestan is the embodiment of a world where people can express themselves freely and showcase their love for selfies and we are proud to have brought our own version of selfies to India with this campaign."

Talking about the most challenging part of putting this campaign together, Vohra says, "The idea was to change the notion that selfies are a narcissistic form of expression. We want to make it more about inclusiveness - smile and the world smiles with you..."

The video opens up with Bhatt welcoming the audience into the world of #Selfiestan. She enjoys taking selfies with her Gionee A1 and people adjust enthusiastically to get into the picture. She even asks to take a Welfie, Dilfie, Zulfie, Gelfie, and Helfie. The campaign started with a teaser on outdoors and TV. It has now been launched across various platforms including print, digital and radio.

The brand recently roped in Indian cricket team captain, Virat Kohli and Bollywood actor, Alia Bhatt. It joined hands with Kolkata Knight Riders too.

Vohra tells afaqs!, "We plan to almost double our marketing budget to around Rs 750 crore in 2017-18 from Rs 400 crore in the current fiscal."

Industry Speak

"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
"Our marketing budget is around Rs 750 crore for 2017-18": Arvind Vohra, Gionee India
According to independent advertising and marketing consultant, Vibha Desai, the Gionee A1 is clearly the focus of this communication. Given that the brand has been hurt by its Chinese competitors, in their minds, this is the product that they want to put in front of their counter attack. "It's a song and dance strategy, repeating 'Selfiestan' a million times, featuring Alia Bhatt; it's about throwing all the block buster elements at the consumer and hoping for Gold. The question is, does it work?," she says.

Desai adds, "While the ad is a bit of a blind spot for me... it captures the fleeting interest in things that the target audience has in a gift wrapped manner. I just wish the music was a little more engaging. The shots are pretty decent though."

Azazul Haque, executive creative director, creative head, south, Ogilvy, Bangalore, says that after this campaign, Gionee will for sure own 'Selfies' - something they have been trying to do for a long time. So, the campaign does deliver the message very clearly.

He however maintains, "Selfiestan doesn't sound fresh. Recently, Rajasthan Tourism did a big campaign with the same idea, 'Mysthan'. It reminded me of that. Having said that, song and dance always work with Indian audiences. So, for Selfiestan, given the scale and the high entertainment quotient, the campaign will have a high recall."

Commenting on the execution bit, Haque says, "An extremely mundane idea is made extremely entertaining by its execution. Here, the song is catchy and the execution looks slick. So, it has high chances of becoming a popular ad, but not memorable."

Agency Credits:

Director: Amit Sharma

Music Director: Clinton Cerejo

Singer: Clinton Cerejo (Male song) & Shalmali Kholgade (Female Song)

Agency: Mullen Lintas

Production house: Chrome Pictures

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