With the advent of 5G technology in the region, Mobile brands are in the race to reposition themselves in the fast-changing market. Communicate spoke with Norman Zhang, Marketing Director, Oppo Middle East, in an exclusive interview, about the company’s efforts in developing a premium brand image.
How significant is the Middle East market for Oppo? What is your major strategy for this market?
We have a strong presence and some remarkable achievements in the North Africa market, especially Egypt. Based on this, we think we can copy this success here in the Middle East, especially Dubai. We also realize that Dubai is a significant regional hub that can cover the Middle East and even the pan Arab area as it is a cultural and economic center. In fact, Dubai can even extend its influence to the South Asian markets as well. We also realize that in this market, we have to build up a premium, high-end brand image to survive here. Gone are the days when Oppo was considered a mid-range, affordable brand, now we are focused on our brand as a premium product. So yes, that is our general marketing strategy for the region. We think this is the right approach to survive in advanced, vibrant markets, so we are going ahead with it.
With online market places like Souq, Noon and Amazon gaining traction, do you think you will look more at expanding your digital retail footprint now?
At the moment, we are focused both on online and offline as part of our distribution strategy. For instance, we work with some major offline chains such as Lulu, Carrefour and Sharaf DG and we have also joined hands with e-commerce websites such as Souq. In terms of marketing and branding, we are collaborating with influencers to be a kind of ‘brand friend’, build a brand image and deliver the key selling point message to our target audience. Since the Internet and social media are huge in the region, we are capitalizing on this and trying to widen our reach. We will of course, expand our distribution channels going forward, both in the offline and offline spaces and collaborate more with carriers such as Etisalat and Du.
Who is your target audience in the region? Do you customize your phones to suit their demands, or do you stick to a one-size-fits-all global approach when making them?
We call our target audience ‘young creators’. The main characteristic of this group of people is that they are trendy, focused on cutting-edge technology and bold enough to experiment and try new things. The young creators are also very interested in technology; they have a global vision, travel a lot, have their own world view and are independent thinkers and quick decision-makers. The one thing that this group loves doing is taking pictures and sharing their lives with their friends and social circle. They are not shy or hesitant to do this-they want to be ‘out there’ and document the outside world as much as their own. So photography and videography are a huge part of their lives. Realizing this, we have brought to our customers in this region, enhanced photography and videography capabilities in our phones. We introduced the ultra-steady video with an image stabilization technology keeping them in mind. The advantage of this feature is that it removes any shakes and bounces that happen when the person recording the video moves. This becomes a huge advantage for vloggers and all who are interested in high-quality images.
How much has Oppo’s market share in the region grown in the last year? What is your strategy for greater growth?
We’ve experienced significant growth in the North Africa region as I said before, and if you look at the region, our sales doubled in 2018 in MEA as compared to 2017. Our target this year is to double our sales. But like I said, that’s our ‘target’, we might even go beyond that. We plan to achieve this milestone by enhancing our brand image, launching more products such as premium series and flagship series, investing in 5G technology and introducing more 5G and IoT products in the region. Oppo is focused on innovation, technology and user experience, so we will continue on this path, as far as the product is concerned. For the sales/channel side, we will continue to expand our channels and give youngsters more options to choose from. The millennials are addicted to the Net and so we will deepen our footprint there. With this in mind, we have launched our Integrated Marketing Communications campaigns to connect and engage with the youth and bring in games and other interesting apps for them.
You’ve said that you’re focusing on the ‘premium’ brand image. But the one thing that people look at when they buy a phone is the price. How do you plan to factor in the price aspect when you market your phones?
Price is a huge factor, but I’d also say it depends on the market. The North Africa market, for instance, is shaped like a pyramid, being extremely sensitive to price. So the higher the price, the smaller the demand. In the Middle East region on the other hand, the industry is like a sandglass. There is huge demand at the top and the bottom of the glass, for both expensive and entry-level phones. So in price is not the driving force here: those who wish to buy a premium phone will buy that, and those who wish to buy an entry-level phone will do that. Here, customers care more for the ‘personality’ of the brand and how it complements their lifestyle, more than the price.