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Exploring the purpose and payoff of smartphone collaborations with non-smartphone brands


 

The fundamental Marketing 101 lesson, the 4 Ps – product, price, promotion and place, remains unchallenged to this day. It is pivotal in shaping marketing strategies, particularly in today’s world where technology advances rapidly and tech companies face the challenge of differentiation amidst fierce competition. In order to stand out, understanding consumer behaviour, analysing market trends, taking risks, and experimenting with novel ideas have become crucial for survival. To drive the message home, effective communication is imperative in showcasing the unique value proposition that novel strategies can offer. To thrive, companies must stay ahead of the curve, leveraging innovation and staying connected with consumers across various platforms. To achieve this, smartphone companies have traversed beyond the realm of spec sheets, expanding into non-smartphone territories by utilising the benefits of co-branding.

Co-Branding: A New Penetration

Co-branding is a partnership that creates a symbiotic relationship, leveraging the core competencies of both parties and benefiting them mutually. In the smartphone world, it offers a solution by enabling smartphone companies to tap into new audiences and gain increased visibility in the market.

The advantages of co-branding are plentiful. Firstly, it allows companies to combine their strengths, resulting in the creation of unique and innovative products. Moreover, co-branding helps companies differentiate themselves from their competitors. By offering something fresh and novel, they can attract consumers who might have otherwise overlooked their products. This is particularly crucial in a market saturated with smartphones boasting similar features and capabilities.

Leveraging Brand Popularity

Realme collaborated with the most popular carbonated beverage company in the world to present the Realme 10 Pro Coca-Cola edition. In 2020, Coca-Cola sold 28.2 billion units cases of the product. To put that into perspective, the number suggests that the average person consumes more than 200 litres of Coca-Cola per year meaning the beverage is a major part of many people’s daily lives and its popularity is not likely to wane anytime soon. The collaboration is not intended to sell a Realme phone to every single Coca-Cola consumer in the world, but to associate Realme with a brand that is associated with popularity.

Capturing an Untapped Market

Oftentimes, a smartphone’s intended audience falls short of expectations, primarily due to a lack of effective marketing communication. A collaboration with a name that captures a large portion of the untapped audience can get things rolling again. The Redmi Note 12 Turbo Harry Potter edition exemplifies this strategy. The rights to the Harry Potter franchise were bought only in China as Redmi wanted deeper market penetration in that region only. To make it worth the investment, the Harry Potter edition smartphone comes with unique stickers, leather straps, earphones, a letter from Hogwarts, a custom sim ejector tool with 9¾ written on it, and a Marauder’s Map that is actually the phone’s manual. It is highly unlikely that Redmi makes a profit from the collaboration’s sales, but the idea is to get the devices into the hands of at least a few more consumers, with the hopes that they would consider buying a Redmi phone in the future.

Branding Creativity

Design teams may not always have the freedom to express their creativity as it risks alienating consumers. As a result, smartphone companies shy away from phones with large form factors, unconventional ergonomics, and design elements that make a loud statement. But when a limited edition smartphone collaboration takes place, design takes precedence. The Redmagic 7 Pro Transformer edition allowed the design team at Nubia, the phone’s maker, to push the boundaries of creativity. The phone comes in a huge box with a custom Transformer themed sim ejector tool. The phone case is made entirely out of metal and has a cooling attachment. The phone’s looks compete with gaming phones that have sharp, well-defined geometric form features, and it even has a cooling fan inside to simulate a sense of heavy machinery. The aesthetics are an homage to Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots in the Transformers universe.

Convey Superiority

Smartphone reviewers perform benchmark operations by pushing phones to the limit. A common app for benchmarking is Genshin Impact, an open-world action role-playing game, that has gained popularity for its stunning visuals, compelling storyline, and game mechanics, and notoriety because of its power-hungry requirements to just run it in minimum settings. This is why OnePlus decided to collaborate with Genshin Impact to create the limited edition Ace Pro Genshin Impact phone. The collaboration is intended to exude the confidence that OnePlus phones can handle the game with ease, making it superior to the other gaming phones.

Exude Luxury

Smartphone companies have little leverage when it comes to pricing because the market is highly competitive. Most of the expenses go into the research and development of the software to make a seamless experience for the user. Even phones that are priced between USD 1500 to USD 2000 are not considered ‘luxurious’ but ‘flagship’. Collaborations give smartphone companies the opportunity to tie in luxury elements into the ownership experience. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra BMW edition showcases this strategy. Both brands get the opportunity to convey their core values during the unboxing experience. Particularly for Samsung, the limited edition aspect adds to the luxury value.

Excite Communities

The best payoff for any smartphone collaboration with brands from other industries is consumer reception. Fans and enthusiasts are the best communication channels to get the market talking about a product. It humanises the brand and excites communities as they feel heard and relevant. The amount of free traction gained through communication channels such as word-of-mouth discussions, social media reviews, and podcast coverage does more for branding than paid endorsements, taking into account the collaboration’s execution.

The world of co-branding in the smartphone industry is a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation. It showcases the dedication and hard work that smartphone companies invest in order to stay ahead in a fiercely competitive market. By joining forces with non-smartphone brands, smartphone companies unlock new realms of possibilities, allowing them to tap into new markets and differentiate themselves by creating truly unique products. The success of these collaborations is not only measured by increased sales or market visibility but also by the excitement and satisfaction they generate among consumers.

As consumers, we get to witness the fruits of these collaborations – limited edition smartphones that go beyond the ordinary, capturing our imagination and enhancing our connection to the brands we love. We become part of the journey, eagerly anticipating the next innovative collaboration and celebrating the ingenuity of those who bring these unique products to life.

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