How Huawei Overlooked a Potential Crisis

After almost a week of the Huawei Singapore commotion, Huawei has become a common name among Singapore households, for the wrong reasons. In case you are not updated with this drama, the local arm of the said smartphone brand had advertised a pretty good deal on one of its models. It was in conjunction with Singapore’s upcoming 54th birthday. They rode on the hype of the national event and marketed the product for $54, especially for our senior citizens aged 50 a0nd above. 

The crowd that had gathered at one of the Huawei outlets in Singapore.
(Source: Straits Times)

So can you imagine the chaos from the elderly after being informed that the smartphones were all sold out barely minutes after opening hours of the retail outlets? Some had even queued for two hours before they were notified that the phones were sold out. Apparently, Huawei was not prepared for the amount of demand the promotion caused. Talk about creating awareness! 

The incident got nationwide attention and became the talk of the town almost instantaneously. WhatsApp groups were filled with videos of long queues and even a picture of an elderly who fainted at the venue. If awareness was the objective, then yes, even us as strategists take our hats off to you, Huawei. That said, we are not about to bash the brand, but rather lay what could have been done better to avoid such marketing fails, especially on the digital platforms. 

Huawei’s preferred social media seems to be Facebook where they have garnered a whopping 57million followers worldwide! So for a start, let’s give credit where it deserves. 

Based on past campaigns, Huawei has always had a ‘generous outlook’ when it comes to its campaign’s initiatives. From one giveaway to another, it looks like a strategy the brand can afford to be behind, and everyone loves a freebie. Last July when President Donald Trump announced that the US will be ‘canceling’ the brand after its issues with China, Huawei Singapore decided to celebrate Singaporeans who were still loyal to the brand by collaborating with another sought after trendy thing in Singapore – a bubble tea chain, Partea. The campaign offered a free drink that users can redeem as a thank you gift for Huawei supporters. The appreciation for its customers is endearing. 

Now in August, another celebration for a specific group of Singaporeans arise but the outcome turned out to be confusing. What differs? For one, the promotional content for the campaign with Partea, covered by media websites and blogs, mentioned that only 300 cups of bubble tea will be given away each day. When brands mention numbers that portray its limitation, it prepares the consumers mentally to manage their expectations. The $54 campaign, however, only mentioned the frequently used and vague liners, “While stocks last” and “first come first serve basis” – which, based on normal circumstances, people tend to set expectations that there would at least be enough to last half a day. 

The campaign seemed to have minimal promotional efforts, such that it feels like an afterthought with only one post announcing it. This could also be because they know their audience loves a good promotion thus causing them to overlook a potential crisis, or maybe they thought that senior citizens do not use Facebook at all to generate a high demand. There are plenty of alternative efforts that Huawei could have implemented to incorporate the special numbers, 5 and 4, and in return even gain a higher engagement on the page. This would also enable them to better control the number of smartphones to give away. And from the looks of it, regular postings on the page receives an average of about 20 shares and special postings like giveaways tend to perform better. 

Huawei could have also done better in aligning the marketing to its targeted audience. Plenty of comments on the Facebook post regarding the promotion and also the aftermath that came with an apology post are filled with users inquiring and demanding on behalf of their elderly parents. This alone makes Huawei seem insincere because its targeted audience is not being reached. 

When you are aware of your target audience and their preferences, planning and adjusting your marketing strategy gets easier. Platforms like Facebook comes with digital insights that enable the brand to analyse in order to cater to their audience accordingly. Marketing, even on social media, is not a guessing game, especially with millions of followers. And also, not surprisingly, as a supposed reputable brand, there are expectations to be met.

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