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Bringing the Influencer edge in your smartphone marketing mix

Since July 14th, YouTube’s prime advertising real estate the ‘Masthead’ that reportedly costs Rs 1.4 crore per day since January, has been dominated by smartphone players, Vivo, Samsung, and Xiaomi. Currently, YouTube is the massiest digital platform in India with 265 million monthly active users and reaching 80% of Internet users across age groups.

Sara Ali Khan Vivo S1

Sanjay Sharma
Sanjay Sharma

As a price sensitive market, Indian consumers are enchanted by Chinese smartphone players who have offered great value and great prices in every consumer segment. As Sanjay Sharma, Head of Strategy & Managing Partner, BBH India puts it, “Affordable flagships as they’re rightly called have become darlings of the market.”

“The segmentation is now clearer than ever. For a largely value-conscious market its only obvious for the budget phone segment to dominate volumes, but what we’re witnessing is the demand veer increasingly towards mid-tier and premium segment”, he adds.

OnePlus has emerged as a de facto leader in this space, as Counterpoint Research reported that OnePlus 7 series achieved 43% shipment share in the premium segment recording overall shipment growth by 33% in Q2 2019.

“This clearly indicates that consumers are willing to splurge on smartphones, and Original Equipment Manufacturers certainly are leaving no stone unturned by offering them the best of both worlds: value plus flagship level features”, concludes Sharma.

A once segmented market is moving towards consolidation with the rise of so called ‘Flagship Killers’ in the market. Xiaomi began the trend with the launch of their Pocophone and other players followed suit quickly thereafter.

As players compete in the same space, there have begun sharpening their communication strategy on digital and exploring new opportunities to build brand connect with their customers.

Look at this campaign launched a couple of weeks back by Vivo Z1 Pro.

Techies Review the Vivo Z1Pro

The brand leveraged Tech YouTubers @AllAboutTechnologies (149,349), @mobiscrub (144,344), @C4ETech (1,628,468), @Mr.Phone , @GeekyRanjit (195,389), and @iGyaan (982,432) all talking about the product in a compilation video.

All these tech vloggers have between 15k to 1.5 million followers on YouTube at the time of filing this report. They are micro influencers who have a dedicated audience base and while they may deliver fewer impressions, with their endorsement, brand engagement reaches record highs.

Dhananjay Bhosale
Dhananjay Bhosale

Tech YouTuber, @DhananjayBhosale says, “While I work with all types of tech savvy brands, smartphone brands are whom I collaborate with the most. I recently tied up with one of the leading smartphone brands to test and showcase their new phone's high-performance features.”

Dhananjay who normally edits his own videos partnered with an expert video editor, to create an enhanced viewing experience for the audience.  The resulting video garnered 300,000 views, 5000 likes and several thousand comments.

Dhananjay has been building his brand on YouTube since 2013. When he recommends a product to his viewers, it has a much greater chance of being picked up. While Vivo has picked up high profile celebrities like Aamir Khan and Sara Ali Khan to build their brand in the past, they are also leveraging micro-influencers to greater effect.

“The game is all about casting the net wide and deep. While the former (celebrity influencers) serves in cultural imprinting the attempt with the latter is to speak to the individual in ways, they find most relatable. Roping in celebrities is a tried and tested method that’s here to stay, but increasingly the use of social media, macro/micro influencers from different areas of expertise not only adds credence but also puts the product/technology at the front and center” explains BBH India’s Sharma.

Samsung picked up celebrity influencer Diljit Dosanjh to promote their product in a lighthearted digital film. They have used the friendly personality of Dosanjh to drive higher engagement with users and made tedious unboxing videos a little more fun.

Diljit Dosanjh Samsung A8 unboxing

Xiaomi got employees of Xiaomi India including Managing Director, Manu Kumar Jain to promote their Mi Beard Trimmer turning a regular unboxing into something more personable in a bid to turn up engagement.

The thing about executing influencer campaigns on digital is that they can be executed at a global scale with great success. Look at how Xiaomi promoted its Redmi K20 phone by roping in renowned Tech reviewers on YouTube. Once again, their undermined the value proposition of the OnePlus 7 Pro just as they had in the year prior with their Pocophone F1.

What the world has to say | Redmi K20

The mix of macro/micro influencers in the video include @UnboxTherapy (14,995,705), @MrWhoseTheBoss (2,520,289), and @FrankieTech (86,671).

Right now, @UnboxTherapy is the biggest Tech Channel on YouTube and @MrWhoseTheBoss is the biggest Tech YouTube in the UK that is run by Indian YouTuber Arun Maini. Unbox Therapy has admitted that many of his followers are Indian as they are crazy about Tech.

Sharma says, “Xiaomi’s attempt to make a dent in the premium segment with their sub-brand POCO and now their plans to make Redmi into a sub-brand specifically targeting the mid-premium segment is only emblematic of this shift.”

“From effective use of scarcity to exclusive e-commerce tie-ups, online has increasingly become the preferred mode of purchase given how internet users across the spectrum are mobile-first now more than ever,” he adds.

He breaks down smartphone brands marketing mix as the following, “Now, OEMs are spending around 70% of their digital marketing budget on mobile platforms and the rest on web platforms. Search turns out to be the single most important channel accounting for nearly one-third of the budget (SEO, Keyword bidding), followed by social media channels, performance/programmatic and now increasingly influencer marketing.”

Influencer Marketers' Speak

We reached out Buzzone and Chtrbox to better understand the myriad ways smartphone brands leverage influencer marketing.

Pranay Swarup
Pranay Swarup

Pranay Swarup, CEO & Founder, Chtrbox said, “Many of our smartphone brands collaborate with recommended influencers to introduce a product, create rich unboxing & review content, drive purchases via discounted sales and create extended advocacy content.”

Sangram Dasgupta, Co-Founder & Sr. Vice President Business development, Buzzone Influencer Marketing said, “The digital touch-points are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Blogs. YouTube, Facebook and Blogs are usually used for tech reviews and unboxing videos of the phone, while Twitter is used for generating conversations, creating buzz and trending during launches. Instagram is used to highlight camera features.

Keeping in mind the features of a smartphone, we leverage influencers from different genres like Technology influencers for review purpose, Photography, Fashion, Lifestyle, and Food influencers to highlight the camera and design of the smartphone.”

Swarup says, “Traditionally, smartphone brands utilized influencers who specifically specialized in the domain of technology, but of late brands are working with all types of influencers. Social media is one of the most used features in smartphones, and who better to showcase it than content creators!”

Like Vivo collaborating with content creator Bhuvan Bam (@BBKiVines) where the product was mentioning during the sketch.

Sangram Dasgupta
Sangram Dasgupta

Young Netizens are the major consumers of such content and the primary target of smartphone brands. As Dasgupta puts it, “The core T.G smartphone brands try to reach out to through influencer marketing are the digitally active audience from the metro and non-metro cities which includes college students, professionals, and homemakers. The age bracket smartphone brands target is from 15 to 45 years but the core age bracket would be 15 to 35 years”

Swarup points out that collaboration with influencers usually achieves 3 objectives for the smartphone brand. Firstly, it highlights a unique product feature. Second, since most influencer created content organically ranks higher on YouTube search results, brand integrations optimize product discovery.  Lastly, they drive brand consideration and drive conversation during the launch period.

As the importance of digital media grows, the role influencers play becomes even more crucial, “brands are now leveraging Influencers for research (even before they plan and launch their campaigns), for event launches, press conferences, store-activations, and on occasions even for reputation and crisis management”, he adds.

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