Can Chinese Smartphone OPPO Break Apple/Galaxy’s Australian Stranglehold?

Can Chinese Smartphone OPPO Break Apple/Galaxy’s Australian Stranglehold?
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Chinese smartphone operator OPPO has been in Australia for a mere 12 months. But now, with a new deal to sell their handsets through Dick Smith and a telco deal with Optus the brand is out to give the two incumbents – Apple and Android – a real shake (particularly at half the price). Here, its Australian marketing manager Michael Tran tells B&T about OPPO’s plans for the Aussie market…

A lot of people probably have no idea about OPPO. Can you tell us a little about the brand?
It’s from China and started in 2004 making MP3 players, then DVD players and then headsets. It released its first smartphone in 2008. In 2014 we released the world’s first rotating camera phone and had the world’s fastest charging technology.

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You had problems getting a teclo provider when you first arrived in Australia. Why was that?
We were new to the market and we were looking to get people familiar with our devices and it hasn’t been easy coming to Australia and get in with a telco and, now, Optus has come onboard. From there we are leveraging the relationship and over the coming months we are looking at launching more devices in Australia.

And the handsets are half the price of a Galaxy or iPhone?
We want to provide consumers with a premium device at an affordable price. We design and manufacturer everything ourselves; we market the phones ourselves.

I’m assuming you’re going after the Millennials at that price?
We’re a young brand at heart. We’re a young company, we want the consumer who wants a great device at an affordable price and the way we market is using things like music and fashion. We’re partnering with Melbourne Fashion Week and the fashion festivals. We’re all about design and style.

Chinese tech products can be deemed as a bit cheap and nasty. How do you overcome that perception?
We’ve done our research and Australian consumers are quite savvy, they know what they want. For OPPO we’re all about quality to customers and we’re already building a big fan base around the world. We wouldn’t enter the Australian market if we didn’t think consumers didn’t want an alternative device.

And the expectations for the brand in Australia?
Look, we’ll grow slowly. But now that Dick Smith and Optus have come onboard it’s going to take time, it’s not going to happen straight away. Any marketer will tell you you have to lay those foundations down and let the consumer know it’s a quality product.

How do you even begin to tell the brand story in Australia without spending a fortune?
We have a partnership through FC Barcelona and that’s a three-year partnership…

…they’re not exactly a hugely popular sporting team in Australia, however?
In Australia we’re rolling out in Dick Smith stores OPPO tables where you can go into the store and actually touch and feel the phones. We’ve recently partnered up with Melbourne Fashion Week and we’re setting ourselves up to tell our story that we are a premium brand and it’s all about building our identity.

Do you think you might be simply too late to market in Australia? After all, people can be very, very loyal to their phone brand.
That competition only drives us to make us more competitive in the marketplace. We make high-end smartphones that don’t cost a fortune and we promise our customers access to high-end technology and world’s best technology. We know we have the right product; if we didn’t think that then we wouldn’t have come into the Australian marketplace.

From a marketers’ perspective, what have been the challenges launching the brand in Australia?Definitely getting in-store has been the biggest challenge. Consumers won’t take-up your product if they can’t touch and play with it.  And from this month we’ll be in shopping centres where consumers can come up and touch and play with the phone. It’s all about getting people to experience the brand.

How do you even begin to convert a loyal Apple fan?
It’s education, it’s about telling consumers that there are alternatives out there and giving another brand a go. It comes down to innovation, price-point and design. You can charge an OPPO phone for five minutes and it gives you two hours’ talk time. We’ve got our own interface based on Android where customers get all types of gestures and customers can actually activate on the phone. It’s got one of the world’s best cameras and many of the apps are already on the device.

There has been some issues in Australia with Chinese electronics companies and privacy. How would you respond to that?
We take privacy very seriously and with the data, the devices, there’s no way we would leak out any data, we think we are at the forefront of things around privacy.

Android has about 56 per cent of the Aussie market and Apple about 37 per cent. What share can OPPO grab?
At the moment I don’t have that answer for you. We’re still working on building the brand and getting the foundations right. It’s just too early for us to define where we want to be. We know what we want to be, we know we want to give those other brands in the market a run for their money and that’s why we’re in Australia.

OPPO’s chasing that Millennial market. What’s the best way to market to those under 30s?
It’s about partnerships. Again we’ve partnered with FC Barcelona, we’re doing stuff with Melbourne Fashion Week, we’re partnering with MTV, we’re doing all these things that Gen Ys are interested in and it’s about telling our story through those channels.

What’s the brand’s success been like in other territories?
The brand is huge in south-east Asia. In Indonesia we’re number two, in Taiwan we’re number three, in the Philippines we’re number three; we’re pretty much in the top four in any country in south-east Asia. We’re not in America or Europe yet but – with FC Barcelona in Europe and (with a sponsorship of) America’s Top Model – we’re heading in the right direction. In China, in the 4G mobile space, we’re ranked number two and we’re ahead of Samsung and just behind Apple.

Ultimately, as a marketer, will you have to spend a lot of money to get noticed in the small and saturated Australian market?
Yes, you do have to spend a lot of money to create that brand awareness and what we’re doing is investing heavily in POS in Dick Smith to give customers that experience and promoting the brand through Optus. It’s all about driving consumers into the stores and get them to experience our brand. Get them asking, “Do I really want an Apple or a Samsung or do I want to try an OPPO?”

No offence, but Dick Smith’s hardly cutting-edge Millennial cool though, is it? It’s not like people sleep out the front of Dick’s stores like they do Apple?
Ha! Dick Smith is an iconic Australian brand and we felt that they mirrored our values and they stock high quality products and they’re the “Tech Experts”. They’re about bringing state of the art technology to consumers and we couldn’t be happier about partnering up with Dick Smith.

 

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