Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Marketing

“The new POCO mascot will be our brand ambassador, sans the celeb cost and baggage”: POCO’s Anuj Sharma

POCO’s country manager takes us through the journey – from ideation to the unveiling of the brand’s refreshed look and its new spunky emoticon mascot.

Smartphone brand POCO’s new mascot is an emoticon. It looks like a little feisty demon, but with a touch of goodness. The mascot has been christened as POCO after the brand’s name and has replaced the first ‘O’ in the new POCO logo.

It has four key parts – a triangular mouth that signifies the brand’s witty nature. The curved eyes add to the overall spunky/badass emotions and suggest that POCO is not a perfect brand. The antennas that double up as horns signify the naughty side of the madness. The halo on top signifies that all of that is still grounded in goodness and quality offered by the brand.

“The new POCO mascot will be our brand ambassador, sans the celeb cost and baggage”: POCO’s Anuj Sharma

For a moment, we at afaqs! thought of Onida’s iconic demon mascot. However, POCO is a relatively new brand. It is only around a year old. Originally launched as a Xiaomi sub-brand, it broke off to become an individual entity in January 2020. The new mascot was teased on the brand’s social media channels. In visuals, the mascot evolves from the tittle in Mi’s ‘i’.

Crafted by POCO’s in-house marketing team and DDB Mudra South, the new brand asset will be visible across all consumer facing brand touch points – social media, launches, digital marketing and ATL.

Anuj Sharma, POCO’s country head, tells afaqs! that the brand was looking for something that was relevant today, could last long, and evolve with the brand as it progresses.

“We have had great mascots, like the Amul Girl, and it has worked beautifully over decades, but we’re talking about 2021. We wanted something which could evolve quickly with time. The emoticon as the base helps to connect with our digital audiences. The symbol/emoticon gives out emotions in a universal language.”

However, it is only recently that smartphone brands have started creating brand assets-like mascots. POCO’s rival realme recently introduced its cat mascot ‘realmeow’. The traditional path to brand amplification has been via big ticket celeb endorsers – often done in short ‘one-time’ partnerships.

Sharma mentions that a mascot made good sense in many ways. He suggests that it enables more control, is cost effective and, if done right, works well as an ambassador, sans the celeb/endorser baggage.

“Our brand philosophy is not really aligned to a particular brand ambassador and we don’t really want to spend that kind of money on a famous actor or cricketer. You don’t even know sometime who’s endorsing whom/what. It only confuses the fans.”

He adds that the brand’s tech enthusiast audience are a lot smarter today and can see through the endorser game. “We wanted to create our own brand ambassador. Also, a symbol provides a lot more control over what consumers perceive and isn’t dependent on a third person.”

Anuj Sharma
Anuj Sharma

Sharma accepts that it is usually a star’s popularity from movies or their last performance that rubs off on a brand. It’s not what the POCO team wanted.

The mascot is being introduced to consumers via the ‘Made of Mad’ campaign which, Sharma says, is rooted in consumer conversations. The idea actually came up during a consumer interaction. “I recall an interaction when a consumer described one of our phones as a ‘phone so loco, it can only be a POCO’. That actually got us thinking about the ‘madness’ space. We are now capturing this in a single visual brand identity.”

(The word ‘loco’ is derived from Latin and loosely means eccentric, crazy or mad, in a good way.)

“The feeling that people should get is being quirky, being mad, yet with a good cause. You’re not looking at the biases of a standard brand ambassador. You don’t know tomorrow if a brand ambassador tweets for or against a particular thing...”

However, POCO so far has had a lean product portfolio that includes only six devices. Sharma recalls that the entire portfolio had only four phones when the brand went in for the annual Diwali sale on e-commerce platform Flipkart.

“We were a bit nervous going into the largest sale occasion. Our competition had 20-22 models. We did see significant success. In the first week itself, we sold over a million phones. We became the number three brand online, ahead of OnePlus and realme.”

“We want to keep our portfolio lean so that the messages we communicate are clear."

Two of the top three selling phones (according to Counterpoint) were POCO. Sharma says that the company will likely continue with a lean portfolio this year. He, however, hints that POCO could unveil a flagship model in the coming months. It could be launched under a flagship ‘F series’.

“We want to keep it lean so that the messages we communicate are clear. We want to complete the portfolio. Last year, we missed out on a flagship. We’re hoping to get a flagship back into the mix.”

The brand will expand into the wireless audio segment and is currently working on it. POCO will also be bumping up the design factor of its devices along with the materials used.

Speaking about the larger trends in the smartphone category, Sharma says that the entire industry globally hasn’t yet recovered from the COVID shock. This will, in turn, inhibit any significant change, in terms of accessing higher technology at a better cost.

He expects the scenario to be mostly about amplification of existing technology. “We can see a large battery becoming the norm. Even till the end of 2019, a 4,000 mAh battery was good enough. Today, we are looking at an average of 5,000 mAh and going up to 7,000.”

"People need their phones to last through classes, work timings, entertainment needs, etc."

Sharma says that this happened because of significant shifts in the phone usage patterns. “It has gone from social media chats, etc., to becoming a primary entertainment tool. People need their phones to last through classes, work timings, entertainment needs, etc. It should also have a big enough display to accommodate, say, a presentation."

He also expects improvements in the overall performance in areas like gaming, with a fresh focus on the device's audio features.