India’s Short Term Memory: All you need to know about Vivo

Despite being marred with controversies in 2020, Vivo is back with a bang with IPL sponsorship. How did the brand duck the negative sentiment and bounce back?


Do we, as Indians, have a short-term memory? No way is this article intended to challenge the patriotism of our fellow Indians, but somewhere in a high-profile board meeting, a group of top executives are jumping in elation, saying—’We are back!’.  

Let’s rewind back a little. 

Following a tension at Indo-China border in May last year, a statement released by Swadeshi Jagaran Manch shook up Rs 2,199-crore four-year deal between BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and Chinese mobile manufacturer

Vivo. “Nothing is above the nation’s security and dignity. The IPL Governing Council has shown its utter disrespect to the soldiers martyred by the most heinous act of Chinese,” the statement released by the Manch read.

Six months later, the deal is back on the table! Vivo is once again the official title sponsor of IPL 2021. What does this mean? Do we have a short-term memory or majority of us actually do not care if the brand sponsoring a cricket tournament is Chinese or Swadeshi? Or, should we applaud a well-thought-out strategy of foreign brands of crossing temporary rough patches and slide back into public-eye business? Let’s find out:

‘One Minute of Patience, 10 Years of Peace’

The Greek proverb will resonate well with Chinese mobile manufacturer Vivo which got into controversy twice and came out successfully. 

Besides IPL, Vivo had come under public scanner in June 2020 after more than 13,000 Vivo phones were found to have the same International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). A case of fraud was registered against the company in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. Few months later, Vivo had a clean chit in its hands and was back with business as usual. How did Vivo duck both these controversies and bounce back? 

The news was all over the media for days, with tone of ‘shocking security breach’, ’terrorist threats’, ‘anti-china’ ringing the lanes of the Parliament. The first and the foremost thing Vivo did in both the cases was lay low to cushion the blow. There were two ways the company could have countered the negative narative about Chinese brands – One, by challenging those asking for a boycott to explain their stand or by letting it slide. Vivo chose the latter.

During the IMEI case, Vivo never came out with a clarification. It simply pumped up its ‘IMEI Authentication -Vivo India’ tag on google searches and turned the narrative into how customers should always verify the IMEI number before buying a smartphone.  Few months later, the company got a clean chit and the issue never came up. The anti-China sentiment was at its peak last year and subsided by the end of December. 

The ‘minor blip’ did not really lead to a decrease in the brand’s popularity and demand. Rather, Vivo managed to break past Samsung to be the second most sold smartphone brand after Xiaomi in 2020. It did suffer a 36% drop in shipments in the second quarter of 2020, Demand picked up in the final quarter during India’s festive season that culminated with Diwali in November.

‘‘

Besides IPL, Vivo had come under public scanner in June 2020 after more than 13,000 Vivo phones were found to have the same International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI).

Aamir Khan to the Rescue

In June 2020, the company was planning to launch the new phone V19. Keeping the uncertainty in mind, the company decided to cautiously build the product, starting off slowly with digital and Below the Line marketing before going national on television, with ambassador Aamir Khan. The order of the day is to launch TV commercials on day one, but the company modified its strategy accordingly.

Vivo leveraged its two-year-old association with Aamir Khan to build a more compelling pull for the brand. We all know that if he endorses something, then it must be good!

Vivo has a strong offline presence. While waiting for the anti-China sentiment to subside, the company aggressively adopted a new offline retail strategy to sell smartphones at the customer’s doorstep. This was also in the wake of Covid restrictions.

Vivo: Yes! We Make in India

Be it in terms of the investments made in manufacturing and marketing the product, almost all the Chinese companies undertook the reputation-building exercise by joining the ‘Make in India’ narrative. Vivo created a PR strategy for becoming an ‘international Local Organisation’ and time and again laid emphasis on the fact that their handsets are made in India. They even unveiled a new ‘Make in India’ logo which was, and continues to be, printed on the boxes of all Vivo devices being sold in the country.  

A press release was issued in May by the company, saying, “We, at Vivo India, have been aligned to the ‘Make in India’ initiative since the beginning. The new logo reiterates our commitment to make India a manufacturing hub and reinstate our mission of being an ‘international local organisation’. 

Post the IPL controversy, Vivo also came out with news to raise its localisation level to 40% by 2021. 

It’s Business as Usual Vivo is back in the driver’s seat with the IPL 2021 sponsorship as the brouhaha settles and so are all the other Chinese brands who were hit by the common wave. The company plans to launch three smart phones by the end of March itself, besides 6-7 others in 2021 besides opening its 650th exclusive store by year end. 

It all boils down to the common man, who, in reality, never really bothers to check the nationality of the brand in use. To add to that, all publicity at the end of the day is good publicity if handled smartly!

Naina Sood
Naina Sood
Naina was former staff at Dutch Uncles, she writes on business-life-cycle, funding, small businesses and start-ups.

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