Nothing is the most hyped new smartphone brand of 2022. If you’ve been watching, it looks like Nothing is following the same strategies OnePlus built during its inception in 2014, which should come as no surprise given that both companies were founded by Carl Pei.
We’re here to break it down once and for all so you can see exactly how Pei generated such buzz for his new company’s debut phone, the Nothing Phone (1).
Step 1: Demonstrate an Industry Problem
The first page of the OnePlus playbook is to demonstrate an industry problem. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific issue, but something most people would agree with.
During its inception, OnePlus claimed that good smartphones are becoming too expensive and consumers are forced to settle for low-quality budget phones or pay premium for flagships; that there were no solid mid-range phones offering great value at the time. This was more or less true in the mid-2010s.
Now, Nothing claims that consumer technology has become boring because brands are not innovating. And most people seem to agree with this. Aside from foldables, not much is happening in the smartphone industry right now (for good and bad reasons), except for small increases.
Step 2: Present an upcoming product as a solution
The second step is to propose an upcoming product as a solution. This step is quite complicated because as a company you have to deliver on your promises while keeping R&D costs low.
OnePlus balanced this out by focusing on areas that other brands overlooked, like screen refresh rate, charging speed, and clean software. It didn’t try to experiment with new form factors or overly wild smartphone designs that were bound to fail.
Pei has done the same by introducing the Glyph interface on the back of the Nothing Phone (1), which is a unique pattern of LEDs. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, but at the same time, it’s also not overly ambitious for its own good.
Step 3: Build Slow, Steady Hype
The third page of the OnePlus playbook is very interesting and completely counterintuitive to industry marketing standards. The idea here is that instead of hosting a big launch event where you reveal everything about the product at once (which is then forgotten in a week), it’s better to reveal one small detail at a time.
This way, you generate slow, sustained hype instead of fast, forgettable hype. The former stays in people’s memory longer because tech publications keep covering all the little details that the brand reveals. Ultimately, this leads to increased brand awareness.
A complement to this strategy are embargoes. You give the product to a famous creator for an exclusive first impressions video, but you don’t let them reveal all the features until a certain date. Instead, the creator can only talk about certain features that they select. As a result, it gains control over the sentiment of the audience and contains negative comments.
Step 4: Target enthusiasts and creators
We’ve already covered in depth why tech startups attract enthusiasts, but here’s the gist of it all: tech startups need attention to build brand awareness. And in today’s attention economy, one of the most powerful ways to do that is through influencer marketing.
Since tech enthusiasts are the ones creating content and influencing consumers’ purchasing decision, it helps to create products that they find interesting and that will be shown to your audience. Eventually, when the brand becomes well known in a few years, it may go on to serve a larger group of regular consumers inevitably “betraying its fan base”.
If there’s one thing Carl Pei knows how to do, it’s build a loyal community. He did it with OnePlus, then the affordable OnePlus Nord series, and now he’s trying to do the same with Nothing. Only this time, Pei is not supported by Chinese tech giant BBK Electronics, the parent company of OnePlus, Oppo and other Chinese brands.
And despite this challenge, the London-based startup hosted an in-person event in Switzerland, put the first 100 units of the phone (1) up for auction with the highest bid exceeding $3,000, and set up an invitation-only pre-order. . system like OnePlus.
Nothing reproduces the OnePlus playbook
This form of aggressive guerrilla marketing is not something we haven’t seen in the smartphone industry. It’s actually quite common for brands to make outrageous promises in their ads, but Pei’s way of doing it is worth a second look.
By creating a highly engaging customer community, Pei is able to use its members as a source of word-of-mouth marketing as they go out into the world to spread the word about the new company, once again increasing awareness of the Nothing brand. Only time will tell if these strategies will work for Nothing the same way they did for OnePlus.