Experiential Marketing Is Going To Make A Significant Comeback: Damyant Singh Khanoria, OPPO

Upcoming events like the ICC World Cup will hold major significance for OPPO's marketing, says Khanoria.


The recent campaign launched by OPPO for its F19Pro Series fits into an individual’s lifestyle and brings game-changing features to the fingertips of the world’s most creative generation. The F19Pro Series aims to capitalise on the rising trend of creating video content among Gen Z and their need to feel involved instead of just sit and see.

In an exclusive interaction with BW Applause & Everything Experiential, Damyant Singh Khanoria, CMO, OPPO spoke about the smartphone’s evolving marketing strategy, online space for OPPO, the changing consumer behaviour and more.


In the last eleven months we have seen the advent of reliance on connectivity and communication. Tell us how you have benefited from this?

When we look at the last one year, the one industry that has really benefited out of the pandemic is the tech sector. In March or April 2020 it was a shock therapy to the business because everything was shut down. But you know, the moment the market started opening up, the tenacity of the smartphone business came into force. We are actually growing in a declining market. So, while the overall smartphone market has been kind of slower than what we wanted, OPPO has done amazingly well. And that's the testimony that we wanted to get being in the smartphone portfolio. 

Especially, the love people have had for the brand in the last five or six years is amazing. I think when we look back, there has been a lot of learning for us — especially in managing launches remotely. However, we have come out with flying colors and on the back of it has been a really challenging situation.

OPPO is offline first brand and everything went online with a little time to pivot and readjust. What it was like to change that mode quickly.

We were so heavily reliant on our offline business that it basically meant that our journey to online business has been a steep learning curve. I think benefit of the magic of ecommerce and being able to reach consumers across different parts of the country is crucial.  

The pandemic has accelerated the pace at which we chose ecommerce as a channel for OPPO. If I look at the future, we are looking at ecommerce in a significantly different way. It is going to be a channel of priority for us. The offline channel is going through stage two. It's a sector that is extremely smart, we have an extremely tenacious channel in the offline page where the entrepreneurial minds of India are at work and so they are not going to lend and give our business to ecommerce.

The marketing side of a smartphone is beyond the camera and the hardware and is woven into participation. Tell us how are you trying to stay different to do this.

I think there are phases of how a campaign goes out and in phase one it is essentially saying, this is why the camera or this is why the product is different and this is what is great in it. Over the period of the campaign, in the following weeks and months what we are really going to do is engage and work very closely with some of the leading KOLs in helping not just to create content but also teach people on how they can create great content. It is almost kind of a tutorial of how to use the F19Pro in creating video and about engaging the consumers by using our partnerships with some of the leading content creators in helping young creators leverage this technology to its full potential.

What we're saying is phase one and of course in the coming months we are going to see more of how this expression is going to take route. When we look back at the year and a half time, we see its impact. Marketing takes time but our intent is to be able to get our consumers to stop being content consumers and start being content creators. So, our philosophy with our consumers and our marketing is going to be getting people to do instead of just sit and see.

What are the big challenges smartphone CMOs, especially when it comes to a brand as big as yours face?

The big challenge is the disability to meet the team. I guess, everything else has been resolved over a period time. I just miss the chemistry of working with my team. I think when you have that team chemistry going, magic happens. And for me, while we have online interactions being physically present is the biggest missing link to be able to do great work. Beyond that if we look at the ability to deliver work and create marketing for supporting our launches, we figured out ways in which we can make that happen and we have got our teams that aren't just working in India but also several global offices to help us to put work out. It's not just the OPPO’s marketing team. There are multiple teams across the world. OPPO treats India as a priority market and so we had the generosity of our headquarters supporting us in these difficult days.

In this COVID era, what differentiated stance do you suggest as a marketer and how will your online-offline strategies evolve as you move from here.

If you keep things simple and you put consumers at the center of how you're building out work, whether it is Covid or no Covid, I guess the simplicity of ideas is what needs to be at the forefront of the work that we do. The offline grid unfortunately is not being able to exert its full force and has been challenging for our sector specifically. When you're selling something which is a smartphone, a demo is needed that cannot be done in an online channel. This complicates things. This is something that happened at the first few weeks after the market opened up but sitting in March 2021 people are really not thinking about the pandemic and they have learned how to deal with it. They know how to keep safe and have figured out how to move the wheels of the economy turn again.

The vaccine is around and people are now going out to stores. How much of that learning and investment on the online space will stay as part of your strategy?

The move to online isn't new. It wasn't triggered by the pandemic and the consumer habits have been changing now for close to five-six years. The emergence of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms has been on for close to six-seven years. I don't think fundamentally there's been a massive shift on how the marketers look at digital. What really changed is just the balance within the marketing working budget on how much to spend on online and some of the other mediums. But when we get back to being normal, investments are going to be made on the back of the quality of the platform. For example, OOH is going to be one of those mediums that will make a very strong comeback because we have spent so much time in our homes looking on our screens that as people would be moving out, they will lift their heads and we can communicate some powerful imagery out of home. Digital has its time in the sun, but creativity in marketing and creativity from all of our partners is going to ensure that we will see a comeback of some of the mediums that have suffered in the last few months. And I am personally a big fan of experiential marketing and I think, it is going to make a pretty significant comeback.

When we look at the way consumers look at purchase decision today. What are the big things going on in their minds, how do you listen to them and how have you read them in the past few months?

There is a very simplistic framework of how consumers buy smartphones. And I'll give you a really straight forward version of the consumer journey. The primary drivers of purchase of smartphones in India are essentially three — the biggest driver of purchase is the camera- if you walk into a store, that's the first thing consumers do. They pick up the phone, they'd go to the camera and they'd start shooting pictures at the store. The second one is around performance. When I say performance, I wouldn't go into the specs, speeds and feeds but it's simply about is the phone fast enough for what I need it for? And that level of expectation differs between a student in a school versus a working individual. Our needs and expectations on what performance really means differs but performance is a significant driver of purchase as well. The third one is the durability. Will the phone last? Now, one of the interesting things, I think if we look at how consumers in India spend, the smartphone probably is the third or the fourth most expensive thing that you buy in life generally speaking. Over the course of our life, I think we spend a significant amount of money on buying smartphones. This Indian notion of value for money. Am I getting true value and is this phone or device going to last me for a significant period of time is an important factor. So, if I just make it really simple on what drives purchase in India, it's really — camera, performance and durability.

What will be some of the upcoming marketing trends in 2021 as far as the smartphone industry is concerned?

2021 for OPPO is going to be based on how can we ease the coming back of consumers to their normal lives and make it more interesting for them. As a company we want to use and leverage the technology that is in our product to enrich peoples’ lives. Additionally, we are looking at some of the big events that are coming up like the ICC World Cup. That is going to be a tentpole event for us. So that time some entertaining work will come your way. A big marketing trend will be that brands would want to create culture once again. Inspite being a smartphone brand, I am saying that we want our consumers to start doing instead of just watching and we hope that we become a catalyst for our consumers in more meaningful ways.

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