Love in the time of trollera

How we helped OnePlus to redefine phone porn

OnePlus are not just the latest Chinese challenger to the global smartphone establishment. Launching exclusively on social media as the first fully customisable, unlocked handset along with the open invitation to hack it even better, they quickly engaged a cult following among tech-superior, impatient early adopters who believe an iPhone is a smartphone for stupid people.

From the CEO down, the company engages right back at them. By listening to their audience and releasing new handsets seemingly as and when improvements are made, OnePlus seem refreshingly keen to share their latest innovations with the same community that inspired them.

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei

But when an under-the-radar tech brand makes phones that compete with Apple and Samsung, their agency competes with multi-million pound marketing noise.

So how do we cut through at Valentine's? Not with more pink wallpaper. But with something to stir things up and get noticed. A physical interpretation of how we all feel for the one we love above all others - one we'd be lost without.

If only we'd employed facial recognition webcams on this one. The reactions videos revealed this polarising Dusk Till Dawn WTF switch to a macro tongue ballet inspired by car ads caused either a spontaneous grin or wide-eyed abject horror. 

But our frenzied phone-licking anti-Valentine, for better or worse in sickness or LOL, made people talk about OnePlus. And renders Marmite about as controversial as Sugar Puffs.

If this seems as strategic as a fart bomb, think again. This homage was to the fans. The words of love in the script were written by Twitter - their real declarations of desire for the #OnePlus3T, its features soliloquised in almost visceral terms.

But it wasn’t for them. Brands don’t pay to preach to the converted. And as one contemptuous commenter pointed out, geeks don’t respond to marketing.

No, this gross display of public affection for everybody's secret object of desire was aimed at a mainstream audience, immune to beautiful marketing from the big players and jaded by the second-rate handsets churned out like clockwork in time for Christmas.

This savvy young audience has the requisite irreverent sense of humour to appreciate the tongue-in-cheek delivery of an off-the-wall message: who's the one you love most, sleep next to, gawp at in public? Now get a room. 

The silent several thousand thumbs-up versus the vocal few hundred thumbs-down for the #LickOfLove on YouTube suggests the majority got the joke. And the actors did such an amazing job of showing genuine passion for a (box-fresh, hygiene freaks) OnePlus 3T that they gave new meaning to the term phone porn.

Haters gonna hate. But given the viewing figures, we’re taking them as reassuring compliments. For a brand that thrives on controversy, if you’re not being trolled you're probably on the wrong bridge.

How many CEOs banter with their followers?

How many CEOs banter with their followers?