Disclaimer time. I am a OnePlus One owner, therefore, I am a OnePlus One customer. Not to mention, I am what we would call an ‘early adopter’ of the One as I purchased mine very early after the device was released. As such, it is with somewhat of a heavy heart that this topic is being discussed. However, as great a the One is (and it is a great device), there is an issue with OnePlus and it is one they need to address sooner rather than later.
You see, OnePlus has achieved something that is difficult to do. They have established themselves in a corporate world, one where the big names of Samsung, LG, HTC and Motorola dominate. They have done this on their own merit and by bringing a great device to the market. As such, all credit is due to them for this. But let’s be clear about something. OnePlus is no Xiaomi. They may only be a year (and a bit) old, but Xiaomi are only a few years older and the difference between the two is astronomical. The biggest difference…marketing.
OnePlus believe they understand marketing. Largely because they assume what they are doing with regards to social media is working. In fact, only yesterday, Carl Pei of OnePlus released a blog on OnePlus marketing in which Pei looks to justify their approach to marketing. Justify, as in tell you all the good bits they have done and how they limit their marketing to what they feel is important. But the reality is that this is short-term marketing and simply will not work out for the long game. While OnePlus credit their social media activities and engagement to their success, what had made OnePlus honestly successful, is the product, not their marketing. If the same device had landed last year and priced at $700, no one would have purchased the One regardless of their marketing approach. Yes, OnePlus enjoy an active forum (again, which I am a member of), they enjoy high activity on Google+, Twitter and so on, but this is again down to the product. While many of the One supporters out there will actively defend OnePlus and their methods, those same supporters know better than anyone, that the same forums and social media outlets contain just as many members stating how they dislike the company, their marketing and their general approach.
The invite system was a prime example of this. This was one of the most divisive aspects of the One’s lifespan so far. Those who received an invite claimed there were plenty of invites and had no issue with the system while those who could not get an invite were instantly turned off by the company. OnePlus puts the employing of the invite system down to a supply/demand and stock control measure. Almost belittling any other small company who has had to endure the same issues. Supply, demand, stock control, low overheads, these are not OnePlus only problems, although OnePlus would like you to think so. Then there was the now infamous ‘Ladies Only’ event. This was a massive headliner last year as OnePlus assumed it was OK to launch a contest which essentially asked one sex to pose in a picture for an invite. Needless to say, this did not go down so well. So much so, the contest was eventually pulled. It is ok though, as it generated more hype for OnePlus, so from their perspective, it was probably considered a success. Moving on, OnePlus then began what can only be defined as the ‘announcing that we will announce something’ phase. This is where things begin to get really confusing and highlight the moment in which OnePlus realized they could sell you something that does not exist. OnePlus are extremely aware of how hungry the public are for OnePlus products (note, hungry for the products) and so instead of announcing a product, they announce that they will announce something. In truth, products sell themselves (again, look at the One), but with these announcements, OnePlus are simply trying to sell hype. Need an example? The OnePlus DR-1. While many took this as the joke that it was portrayed to be (and yes, they did sell the limited quantity that they had), this turned a lot of people even further aware from the company. Myself included.
To add to this, OnePlus seems to be hypocritical when it comes to the way in which they engage with tech sites. OnePlus would like you to believe that they are ‘with the customer’, that they and you build the device together, that you are part of the journey. As such, instead of engaging with tech sites (like any other company) they would like you to believe they release the information to you, directly. OnePlus again felt the need to release a blog post a couple of weeks ago detailing this very issue (you can read it here). The blog post again defends their approach and presumably is designed to combat editorials like this one. Defending what can only be described as a ‘drip feeding’ approach to announcements. Snapdragon 810 one week, Type-C the next, something else will come in a couple of days time. But the truth is, none of this is for the tech community, for you. The release of the OnePlus 2 is one of the biggest talking points of the summer. The drip-feeding of specs is not designed to offer you the excitement OnePlus claim but instead is designed to get you to a point that when it is released, you will purchase one. The same logic which was used for the DR-1 and although it works, again, it only works in the short term.
There is also another element which should be brought up and this is a bit of breaking news for you. In the same week that OnePlus defended their actions of offering their news to the public first, they also announced the launch date of the OnePlus 2. To be clear, this was not announced to you first. This was sent as an exclusive to one particular news site (will not name drop, so don’t ask) and not to you. Keeping in mind, this was the day after the company released the statement defending their actions of being proud about their “direct dialogue between us and our fans”.
OK, so here is another tech reporter…blogger…whichever the term, moaning…ranting…whichever the term, about not getting the news first…and this is fine. In truth, we reported on the news quick enough for it not to be an issue. The point being made is that the OnePlus approach to marketing (or lack thereof) is an increasing issue being felt by tech sites across the industry. You can read an editorial from a few weeks back by Mobilesyrup (click here) who have become fed up with how OnePlus operates from a marketing standpoint. In particular, the drip-feeding of micro-announcements. And they are not the only ones. Much of the coverage you will read from news sites contains an underlying tone to the content, due to the industry as a whole not so keen on this type of marketing. As much as OnePlus claim not to use tech sites, this drip feeding is purpose-designed to keep their (self-leaked) information passing through the tech sites. They absolutely use tech sites. Not to mention, there will be the further hypocrisy of their approach following the release of the OnePlus 2. By this point, it will be the tech sites that OnePlus (and the general public) turn towards to provide reviews of the device. To tell the public how good it is, how much better than the One it is…why you should buy this instead of holding out for what will be an excellent Galaxy Note 5. So the same normal channels that OnePlus would like you to think they bypass, they are far more reliant on to ensure the success of their products. You can see a prime example of this on their website by clicking here. The page highlights their dependency on tech sites for their reviews.
Some of you will be saying, that all I have done here, is confirm how good their marketing is and maybe you are right. However, as already mentioned more than once, the clever marketing being attributed is a short-game marketing. The live for today, die tomorrow type marketing. OnePlus cannot sustain an approach like this and slowly, they are consistently turning more and more customers away from them. People are becoming increasingly bored with the antics and while the few who still enjoy the OnePlus announcements continue to defend their actions, make no mistake, the majority of consumers will not be interested in OnePlus going forward. This marketing approach by OnePlus is going to be what slowly cripples the company and limits the sale of their future devices. The OnePlus 2 will be a good smartphone, this I am sure of. Will it be as good as the One? I doubt it. Why? Because the One was a surprise that no one saw coming. The OnePlus 2 will not be. All eyes will be watching and once the specs are fully released, I suspect many will not be as impressed as they thought they would be. Maybe this is why OnePlus have truly employed a drip-feeding approach to the specs. If they released all of the specs tomorrow, maybe you or I would not care so much or worse still, see it as a disappointment. If you have read this far, then it is time for that disclaimer again. I am a OnePlus One owner, therefore, I am a OnePlus One customer. Will I be buying the OnePlus 2? As each day passes, I am less interested in buying one. Not because of the phone, but because of the company.