Abid Hussain Barlaskar

“Excessive phone use contradicts brand purpose”: vivo’s Nipun Marya on ‘Switch Off’ campaign

The brand’s cause-led campaign #SwitchOff is a rare sight in smartphone advertising, where much of the messaging is product-oriented and dominated by new tech.

As smartphones become our lifeline, are they becoming our life? A survey conducted by CyberMedia Research (CMR), in partnership with leading smartphone brand vivo, reveals that Indians are spending almost a third of their daily hours on their phones. (Full report at the bottom)

The daily time spent on smartphones in 2020 has climbed to almost seven hours, as compared to five hours in 2019. This insight is the key driver for the second leg of vivo’s #SwitchOff campaign. It urges smartphone users to take a break from their devices and spend time with near and dear ones.

‘Many of us spent 2020 together. But did we really spend time together?’ This closing question in the brand film is set in the backdrop of COVID lockdowns, during which people took to working from home and got to spend more time with their families.

Conceptualised and executed by Lowe Lintas, the film showcases family members glued to their smartphone screens while sitting together at the dining table. The grandmother (played by veteran actress Farida Jalal) deliberately does not add salt to the food to draw attention to the occasion.

The first part of the campaign was unveiled around the same time last year. The film featured actor Aamir Khan, who played the role of a father engaged in a work call as his family is having breakfast.

vivo’s cause-led ad campaign comes at a time when smartphone usage and consumers’ reliance on this piece of essential personal tech is at an all-time high. Right from basic communication to school education, the phone is currently at the centre of it all.

Nipun Marya, director brand strategy, vivo India, tells us that there are clear trends of increased entertainment consumption (OTT, social media, gaming), with nearly 50 per cent spike in usage in the last several months.

Nipun Marya
Nipun Marya

We asked him if this change has actually reflected in changes in product development. Marya says that while the company is closely observing the ongoing shifts, it is yet to come across any major change that could impact product designing.

Speaking on the latest campaign, Marya says that while the company is driven by the idea of using technology as an enabler for human relationships, the excessive usage of smartphone was going against the brand purpose.

“We wanted to bring awareness to the idea that smartphones should be there as an aid. They should be there for our use, and not vice versa. While at an industry level, it might seem counter-intuitive for a smartphone brand to tell people to use them less, it is in sync with our brand purpose,” he adds.

However, it’s not often that we see brand-oriented advertising from smartphone brands. Meaning, most of the communication is built around new product launches, features and announcements. With launches from several brands at the same time, the features-driven communication ends up being homogeneous. At a time like this, vivo’s cause-led approach could give it a lift in the ‘features’ clutter.

On being asked about the lag in brand-oriented communication for smartphone brands, Marya explains that innovation rollout in the smartphone industry happens at a fast space. Hence, the product lifecycle is very short, with a new successor every six months. In such a situation, the brand is bound to communicate its latest technology. Brands have to focus on communication for one product after another.

In a way, smartphone brands can’t remain quiet. They can, but at the risk of losing market share and missing out on crucial product cycles. vivo, for one, hasn’t been quiet at all. A few months back the brand unveiled the campaign for its new model vivo X50 Pro. The campaign communication was built around the built-in ‘gimbal camera system’, an advanced optical image stabilisation (OIS) feature that helps stabilise videos and photos.

More recently vivo showcased V20Pro its "slimmest" 5G phone.

“It is important since the consumers are deeply connected to their phones and use them for purposes close to their heart. That way, they are very involved in the smartphone purchase process and are very demanding. They certainly like to know what is new. Therefore, product communication becomes very central to what the consumer demands and what the brand offers,” Marya says.

We asked him if it gets particularly difficult to make space for the brand. He responds in the affirmative, but mentions that it is important to find the right window. “But since the consumer is digital all the time, there are many ways to communicate. While it is challenging, it is also very doable,” Marya signs off.

Vivo CARE infographic.pdfDownload
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