“What’s so great about this? It is basically the same phone, same spec sheet. Just a new shade! Are you just trying to be in the news by any means whatsoever?”
That statement was made by a colleague in the media. And no, it was not about the OnePlus 6, but about the Samsung Galaxy S9, which announced new color variants (sunrise gold and burgundy red) a few weeks ago. The announcement of the new shades got Samsung a cursory mention in the news sections of most tech media outlets. Now, contrast that if you will with the near ecstatic welcome that every new variant of the OnePlus 6 has received – be it the Avengers edition, the silk white variant or the recently launched red one. We have detailed looks at each of those devices in different publications and sites (yes, including ours), and not just news mentions.
All of which makes us wonder why does a new color from OnePlus merit so much attention whereas one from another brand and model that more than matches its spec sheet and design and totally outsells it does not?
“OnePlus just does a better job on the communications front,” a friend of ours suggested. “Samsung and many other companies tend to bring out a new variant as if it is routine – just another option being offered to the consumer. OnePlus on the other hand, tends to hype it up in advance. It is almost as if for them, the phone is not just a new color but some sort of brand statement.” And the talk is not faff – the company actually talks a lot of sense and gives out design details and the reasons for them. The result? With the other companies, a new color variant has the effect of getting an old phone in a new shade. But with OnePlus, it is almost as if you are getting a new phone. The new shade gets teased, talked about, reviewers even get units (one almost never does in the case of other brands). And that results in coverage that is to an extent similar to that which a new phone gets.
In this regard, whether intentionally or otherwise, OnePlus is following the footsteps of a very illustrious company. Oh yes, that fruity one in Cupertino has always had a flair for bringing out variants of products that had little to differentiate themselves from the original, other than a new color or external design tweak. Remember the 101 Dalmatian edition iMac or the special U2 edition iPods or more recently the Product Red editions of iPhones? In each case, Apple went out of its way to make the product sound like a whole new range rather than simply the original product with a few touches here and there. And well, it worked.
Of course, there will be those who will consider this to be just tricking the media (oh yes, we can be tricked) because isn’t this another way of staying in the news without really – really really – making an all-new product? Well, not entirely. Because the marketing hype that the likes of Apple and OnePlus generate about variants often results in consumer curiosity and that in turn spurs the media to write about them. If all OnePlus had done was send us a release about “New red variant available,” the chances are that it too would have got at the most a mention in the news section. The brand, however, set its stall out to do more in terms of communication and reaped the benefits. Of course, this is not easy – it involves investing time, effort and other resources in elaborate campaigns to ensure that the product appears meaningfully distinct. It runs the risk of backfiring – the campaign could fall flat, the product might not live up to the hype and so on. But if it works, it can strengthen brand awareness and equity, and of course, boost sales of the new variant too.
So is it fair that different variants of OnePlus get more attention than those from other brands? The answer lies in the effort the brands put in to convince people that the new variant is worth it. OnePlus, to its immense credit, does so. Time and time again.
A lesson there somewhere for a number of brands.