OnePlus' Diwali spot resembles an ad for a networking app. That's because it's about the brand's community forum.
Smartphone brand OnePlus' latest Diwali commercial leverages its fan-base and community following to infiltrate consumer minds. Usually, phone brands emphasise a classy feature with an in-your-face sort of message or build a story around it. However, OnePlus' latest ad doesn't talk about features and lacks a decent visual of the phone itself.
The ad, instead, rides on an idea of cohesion within the brand's user community which cuts across international boundaries. Members of the community have a OnePlus 'thing' in common which attracts others. The community, framed in the ad, delivers homely Diwali love to a lonely young Indian living abroad. The boy is invited to a meet up which is set up by his sister from India via her OnePlus friends.
Other players in the segment have also been mapping users - Xiaomi routes fan-meets via online forums while Apple keeps users stacked on various pretexts like FaceTime.
The ad, despite being a Diwali special, lacks high-voltage Diwali visuals - lights, new clothes, mounds of sweets and, of course, firecrackers.
We also glanced through communications from other brands who also released Diwali-special ads around the same time:-
Alia Bhat clicked a selfie with her Nokia, Kiara Advani praised the fast-charging feature of her Oppo, and Vivo subtly praised its camera in a touchy story. Vivo also played the bringing-people-together card, in a different context though. And Huawei's Honor went ahead with a family 'groufie'.
With regard to the OnePlus community, bringing strangers closer seems like a thing for social media or online dating/get-together platforms like Tinder, for example, is a location-based social and dating app which helps people find love or other like-minded people and communities.
The communication in the smartphone category has mostly been occupied by features with each brand having a flagship model or a 'flagship-killer' of its own.
So why did OnePlus leverage its meetups and not the phone?
Vikas Agarwal, general manager, OnePlus India, defines the OnePlus meetups as informal community events organised for users, mostly by the fans. Sometimes the brand also organises these, officially.
"These are organised by users who are core community members and have been with us for some time. Our idea is to understand users better. While most of our business happens online, we are conscious of having an offline identity as well. This helps us with end-user feedback," he explains.
Speaking about the communication being less about the brand and the phone, Agarwal says, "Brands concentrate on the product or the sales aspect. We did neither. Sales were never our priority in communication. It's mostly about promoting the product and educating users. We don't excessively talk about sales. In a way, we stay away from such communication. The entire idea of the ad itself came from community members."
"We are digital and our sales are largely done on a pull basis. Our users buy the phone because of a recommendation, a review or digital visibility unlike brands that depend on omnichannel communication for top of the mind recall and offline presence. When we started out in 2014, we sold only through invitations. Each phone would come with three invitations which the user could share with others. Word of mouth is integral to our journey. That's why we concentrate so much on the community aspect," he adds.
In Agarwal's words, OnePlus listens to its tech-savvy and demanding users and then concentrates on satisfying their needs.
Ameya Lokhande, VP, Happy mcgarrybowen, the agency that crafted the film, says, "During Diwali, most brands speak about celebration and homecoming. But there are people who have moved to different cities or countries and only a few can come home. We wanted to capture their emotions and how the brand can play a role in making their Diwali special too. After a couple of brainstorms with the OnePlus team, we heard stories of community members who are abroad for work and are joining the meetups there. We realised this is something that truly stands out."
Turning to the experts:
Communications consultant Karthik Srinivasan is of the opinion that although most of the OnePlus films look like PowerPoint presentations turned into video and that the brand literally uses a press release from Counterpoint Research in the name of print advertising, this is perhaps the most emotive and expressive self of the brand.
"Most smartphones have now reached saturation levels when it comes to features - 3700 mAh becomes 4000 mAh, three cameras become four etc. Given all this, it makes sense that OnePlus is talking about its users and while doing so, showing what a closely-knit community they are across the globe," Srinivasan says.
"I own a OnePlus 5T and am happy with the phone. The phone is not the absolute/incredible best in any one way but does everything on an above-average level. So, since there's nothing unique to shout from the rooftop, it seems obvious that they keep the branding subtle and focus on people using the phone and show how they have a thing in common - trust in a phone brand that is wonderfully satisfying. The selling point of the ad is the fact that so many people across the world have put their faith in a smartphone brand and like meeting up or discussing that brand trait," Srinivasan adds.
"The effect is to watch non-Indians gearing up to celebrate Diwali for the sake of an Indian only because his sister requested them to! The crux of Diwali, for an Indian, has always been home, people, togetherness. We celebrate with lights, sweets and crackers but it's the coming together and bonhomie that makes Diwali what it is. And the film captures that really well."
Ajay Gahlaut (ex-deputy CCO, Ogilvy India), says, "It is less of a hard sell sort of ad and more of what we today call 'content'. In this case, what works, in the end, is the product itself i.e. the phone. The good feature-price ratio is working for the brand."
"The ad in itself is just another story which others are telling too. It has its own emotional layering and it doesn't work too much. The only connect is the 'one community' idea and it aids other activities that the brand is carrying out. As a stand-alone ad it wouldn't do much, but it would lend support in conjunction with the other activities," Gahlaut adds.
Creative Agency: Happy mcgarrybowen
Creative: Naren Kaushik - Senior Creative Director; Varun Khullar - Creative Director
Account management: Ameya Lokhande - Vice President; Madhumita Das - Associate Account Director; Kanishk Dhupad - Account Manager
Planning: Aditya Kashyap - Associate Vice President Strategy; Ashwin Dravid - Digital Head
Production House: Kameron
Director: Ezra Gould
Producers: Juho Harjula
Exposure (mediums used): Facebook & YouTube