Chinese smartphone and electronic companies such as such as Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, OnePlus, TCL and a few others have decided to scale down marketing and pull back advertisements at least for a week to 10 days until the border tension eases, fearing that such activity right now may backfire as #BoycottChineseProduct trends in the country.
These companies have withdrawn ads from television, and reduced those on billboards, traffic signals and lamp posts, besides stopping campaigns featuring Indian celebrities on digital, social media and ecommerce sites.
Chinese companies and their top executives have also reduced or stopped promotions and posts on Twitter and Instagram, they said. Oppo and Vivo have not tweeted from their brand accounts since Wednesday. This is despite some new launches taking place, a time when the companies and executives typically promote products heavily.
A senior executive with one of the top three Chinese smartphone makers said headquarters had advised it to lie low and tone down planned promotions featuring Indian celebrities, who have received social media flak for promoting the brands. Top media buying firms said Chinese brands advertising at a time like this would be highly risky given the sentiment.
Madison World chairman and managing director Sam Balsara said it would be logical for Chinese brands operating in India to wait for the dust to settle. “Hopefully the tensions will be defused soon,” he said.
OnePlus and TCL declined to comment. Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Realme didn’t respond to queries.
US-based market researcher IDC India research director Navkendar Singh said it is a prudent idea to remain silent now when sentiments are negative and hope that diplomacy eases tension.
“If the brands do normal promotional stuff, then there will be backlash,” he said. “Brands want it to die a natural death over the next few days. Several companies are also battling low stock due to Covid-19 plant shutdowns and hence no point pushing much now.”
Chinese brands control 81% of the Indian smartphone market while in smart televisions it is over 35% with Xiaomi in the lead for both, according to Counterpoint Research. In air-conditioners and household appliances, the share of Chinese brands is 7-8%.
Management consultant Partho Dasgupta, former chief executive of audience measurement industry agency BARC, said TV and digital media will face challenges if Chinese brands withdraw advertising.
“There are far too many Chinese brands invested in almost every industry in India. The Indian Premier League (IPL), for example, has Vivo as lead sponsor and the tournament may be held in September this year,” he said.
Vivo has a five-year title sponsorship deal of more than Rs 2,000 crore with IPL under which the brand pays Rs 440 crore per season.
Cricketer Harbhajan Singh, who plays for IPL team Chennai Super Kings, had tweeted “ban all Chinese products” two days back.
A senior official who’s worked closely with IPL sponsors said, “If BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) does away with Vivo, Vivo can sue them. Besides, BCCI will find it difficult to get a new sponsor at at price.”