Launch events for smartphones are typically splashy occasions that vie for the attention of consumers as they consider upgrading devices or switching to another service. Smartphone maker OnePlus in February aimed to stand out with a livestreamed concert called "The Drop" starring rapper Ty Dolla $ign, using a white-label platform to feature the show on its own website in addition putting it on social media sites.
The concert drew an online audience of about 1.3 million unique viewers, who watched for an average of 11 minutes. That watch time was more than five times the industry standard, while the engagement rate of 21% was estimated at three times industry benchmarks, according to data provided by OnePlus.
"The Drop is our way of really engaging a diverse group of audiences and communities in a way that's never been done before," said Cameron Kelly, senior marketing strategist at OnePlus North America. "Knowing our history as the 'flagship killer,' we really wanted to present new and unique technology in this experience and break that mold."
OnePlus's livestreamed concert was held at a time when many consumers have been unable or unwilling to attend live events because of the coronavirus pandemic. Without in-person attendance, brands have either scaled back their experiential marketing efforts or reimagined them as virtual gatherings that engage consumers through connected devices like smartphones.
"Knowing our history as the 'flagship killer,' we really wanted to present new and unique technology in this experience and break that mold."
Senior marketing strategist, OnePlus North America
The device maker developed its digital concert with Metro by T-Mobile, the prepaid cellular provider owned by T-Mobile US, the second-biggest carrier in the country after AT&T. T-Mobile had 20.7 million prepaid customers by the end of last year, making up about a fifth of its total customer base, according to a quarterly report.
OnePlus highlighted two smartphone models — the Nord N10 5G and Nord N100 — during the launch event, which included a variety of interactive features aside from Ty Dolla $ign's performance. It worked with interactive video platform Maestro, whose white-label features let brands completely take over and tailor digital experiences for their specific audience.
"What's really unique about the platform is it has several layers of unique engagement where you have the core livestream or concert experience, but you also have this ability to run quizzes and polls," Kelly said. "They have a unique in-stream embed for Easter egg hunts throughout the broadcast."
Those Easter eggs were developed by lili Studios and were denoted with red highlights, letting concert viewers tap to view more information about its products or see additional video content. A highlight of Ty Dolla $ign's tattoo pointed to a story about how the rapper got his first tattoo in a separate panel, as one example. OnePlus also gave away as much $10,000 in cash, devices, discounts and merchandise during the performance to further reward viewers and drum up buzz around the event.
"It does become a much deeper, more immersive live experience where you can go as deep as you want to go, or you can just watch the concert itself," Kelly said. "Maestro became really unique for us because it was a way for us to share brand, artist and production information in a fun and engaging way, but also enabled us to immediately deliver prizing."
As for engagement during the concert, Kelly said he was pleased that about a fifth of viewers actively participated in the performance, either by posting a message in a chat, answering a quiz or entering the raffle. About 20% of the concert's total viewership was on the Maestro-created platform, while most of the remaining audience watched on popular social sites including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok.
"There's not a lot of interactive livestreaming platforms out there, but in terms of comparing that with a non-interactive platform, that's a substantial level of engagement that you wouldn't otherwise achieve," Kelly said.
Conveying the 'Never Settle' spirit through influencers
OnePlus partnered with Ty Dolla $ign to reach a broader audience and convey the "Never Settle" spirit of its slogan.
"He's someone who has touched a lot of different communities," Kelly said. "He's approached music in a really innovative way, and we felt that he was a strong representation of what we were looking to achieve with the experience and what we look to represent as an organization."
OnePlus not only ran a paid social and search campaign to raise awareness ahead of the livestreamed concert, but also enlisted 14 social influencers to spread the word to their respective networks. Those influencers included YouTube stars like Rudy Mancuso and Trevor Wallace, along with lesser-known personalities with dedicated followings.
"Our influencer program was designed to have multiple tiers. We had some of what you would call 'tier one' macro influencers, whose role was to usher in strong engagement, reach and awareness around the program," Kelly said. "Then, we worked with some more on the mid-level influencer side, and typically they'll have a lower following, but higher engagement."
Those lower-level influencers tended to focus on the music industry and branded events, providing more details about what to expect from the livestreamed show and interactive experience. Bboy Wicket, a break dancer, produced a beat using some of OnePlus's ringtones and promoted the event among the hip-hop dance community.
"We tried to be pretty comprehensive, but working to segment those audiences in a way where we're providing something of value," Kelly said. "We're not trying to force too much paid and things down to the audience that won't be as interested."
On track to 2 million
The digital concert experience arrived amid signs that OnePlus's smartphones are resonating with Metro by T-Mobile customers. The prepaid carrier makes up 15% of OnePlus's U.S. sales, the highest of any cellular brand, according to Wave7 Research data cited by PCMag. Because Metro sells about 15 million to 16 million devices a year, OnePlus is on track to sell more than 2 million phones this year at Metro alone.
As for the livestreamed concert, Kelly would like see OnePlus run more events that urge people to participate, especially after a year of social distancing and limitations on in-person gatherings.
"We're going to continue to find ways to capitalize on new technology to bridge and bring experiences like this together," he said.
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect new information provided from OnePlus regarding total unique viewership and partners on the project.