Recently, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore saw the launch of a next-level tactical marketing campaign involving two of the world's fastest-growing companies. Global smartphone distributor Xiaomi teamed up with US-based transportation network company Uber.
This surprising partnership was forged to deliver the new Xiaomi Mi Note phone. Customers used their old phone to order the new phone through the Uber app, which was then delivered rapidly and efficiently by an Uber car.
Data provided indicates 200 Mi Notes were delivered by 50 cars in just one hour – creating a lot of buzz on major media channels.
Tie-ups and tactical: a winning marketing combination
Tactical campaigns and tie-ups like this are becoming increasingly popular and for good reason – they bring quick results and great publicity. Tie-ups allow two companies with like-minded marketing strategies to achieve synergistic results, giving them a crucial edge in today's incredibly competitive markets.
High-profile successes like this campaign are relatively rare. The main reason? The lack of a sound marketing strategy. The words 'tactics' and 'strategy' are often used interchangeably, but their meanings are actually very different.
Essentially, a marketing strategy is a vision of how a company will differentiate itself from the rest of the pack; while marketing tactics are the nuts and bolts of how this strategy is achieved.
Founded only four years ago, Xiaomi is a relative newcomer to the electronics industry. They are currently enjoying runaway success and are now the third-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
According to Xiaomi's CEO Lei Jun, at the start of 2015 the company recorded RMB74.3 billion in pre-tax sales last year representing an astonishing increase of 135% over a year earlier. Xiaomi has achieved this through a combination of well-made yet affordable products, selling phones at slim margins and using unique marketing campaigns – a formula which many companies are now trying to emulate.
Uber is currently disrupting transportation markets around the world with their innovative business model and mobile-based marketing.
Despite being in entirely different industries, Uber and Xiaomi's effective tie-up shows that the right combination of big-picture strategy and smart tactics can be a winning combination. It also illustrates the value of knowing what other brands your customers relate to and boldly leveraging that information.
Forget the chicken and egg dilemma – a sound strategy has to come first
Dozens of daily examples of tactical marketing can be found in every industry – companies across Hong Kong are always trying to create PR buzz and engagement.
Car dealers, telecom service providers, and supermarkets spend a significant proportion of their marketing budgets on weekly tactical campaigns – the thicker newspapers we receive every Friday and Saturday are dominated by advertising from these three industries.
While not a runaway global phenomenon, these practices are still successful – the proof being the weekly sales reports and the fact that these merchants have kept this cycle for the last few years.
Naturally, sales is one key performance indicator of the success of a tactical marketing campaign. But tactics must change and evolve over time and as the landscape transforms; and for this to occur, a healthy, sensible, well thought-out marketing strategy is essential.
This brings us back to the Xiaomi/Uber tie-up – without a solid strategy behind the campaign, this would have been nothing more than a one-off flag waving exercise for both companies.
I'm sure in future we can look forward to many more examples of interesting, disruptive tie-ups and sensational campaigns from unlikely new partners. What an exciting time to be in the marketing business!
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Lawrence Chia is the Chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong-listed Pico Far East Holdings (Pico Group) (SEHK: 752).