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Opinion // On press launches

I recently attended the press event for the launch of the Huawei Mate S and the Huawei M2 tablet.

It was a fairly high profile tech event, hosted by some well known local media personalities, and including an appearance by the new Huawei Creative Director J’Something from Mi Casa and Zolani from Freshly Ground as well as all the usual corporate representatives. It was held at The Park in Hyde Park Corner, a relatively expensive and exclusive venue, and attended by not only the usual tech industry journos, but some fashion bloggers and local celebs as well.

My point is that Huawei, and I’m assuming their PR agency, pulled out all the stops, hot on the heels of the launch of the P8. The take away gift for all the ladies included a Swarovski crystal pen with Huawei engraved on it, and for the men a Mont Blanc card holder. Out of interest I looked up the retail value of the pen (since that was the gift I received), and it comes in at around $35. At the current abysmal Rand/Dollar exchange rate that is almost R500 a pen! There must have been around 200 people at that event, if not more. Even if they only gave the gift to half the people attending, that’s still a minimum of R50 000,00 just on the take home gifts, excluding the 16GB press memory sticks that were handed to all the press at the event.

Add to that the catered food (very nice food I might add), the drinks, the decor, the venue hire, the dancers that preceded the speeches (yes you read that correctly), the models (again, yes), the people hired to demo the products and so forth, and the cost of this event was easily a quarter of a million Rand, probably more.

And I don’t see the point.

The thing is, Huawei doesn’t need to put on a show like this.

The dancers opening the show were very talented sure, but what exactly does this have to do with a phone? I saw Huawei tweet something about art coming to life, and if that was the connection, that the art of the dancers was being compared to the phone as a work of art, then it’s a very tenuous one. The fashion show that followed the speech which was supposedly showing off the Huawei Watch was completely superfluous. From where we were standing (and it’s not like we were at the back), the watch was barely visible and honestly it seems like a rather pointless exercise overall. Huawei doesn’t need to put on a show like this.

 

AV of the dancers at the Huawei Mate S media launch
AV of the dancers at the Huawei Mate S media launch

 

 

On first glance they are as impressive as any Huawei products and can easily compare to their slightly more expensive competitors.

Their products are competitively priced, look good and perform well. I had a Huawei Media Pad, the new one of which was launched at this event a couple of nights ago. I also had a Huawei P1 many years ago as well, and was decidedly impressed with both of these products. The Mate S and M2 tablet are no different. Although I haven’t had hands on review time with either of these products yet, on first glance they are as impressive as any Huawei products and can easily compare to their slightly more expensive competitors.

The build quality is good, the performance is great – why go to these lengths to try and impress journalists who honestly, aren’t interested in this stuff?

Because this is the reality. You can woo us all you want with pretty lights and a cool looking performance, but the majority of us don’t care about that stuff. For us it’s yet another press event, and we attend a large number of these in a year. Sure maybe some of them aren’t quite as elaborate as this, but all we really want is some hands on time with the phone, and the ability to really put it through its paces when we receive a review unit. If you really want to impress people, show that you’re in touch with your consumers by making people care about why the Huawei is so much better than its competitors.

Huawei Mate S_Colors
The good looking Huawei Mate S comes in a variety of colours.

Why not, instead of giving journalists a review unit for 2 weeks, invite journalists to an event and give them all a phone to keep? That would not only cost probably the equivalent of the event you hosted, but would show people that you’re willing to invest actual product (and not just meaningless PR words) in your consumers. I’m not saying that this is the only way, just offering up an example of ways in which tech companies can change their tactics to get proper, solid PR from the launch of a new product.

The people ooh-ing and aah-ing at that event were not the people who were going to be reviewing the products. In fact most of the journalists I spoke to afterwards seemed decidedly confused as to why the show was a part of this event and those who did enjoy it still agreed that it was more about the theatre and less about the product.

The fact that there were then people hired to demonstrate the phone to us seemed equally pointless. At this event, you’re speaking to people who do this for a living. It’s an Android phone. There are dozens of Android OS phones on the market – if you can’t figure out how to use it then it’s already a bad phone. There was perhaps only one Huawei specific feature (the knuckle gestures) that perhaps might have needed a little explanation, but asking me if you can show me how to take a selfie? No thanks. Have a couple of people on standby – if we need something, we’ll ask.

Huawei is the focus of this post, but this actually speaks to mobile phone companies in general. Guys. We go to dozens of these events in a year. They are ALL THE SAME! Sure the speech and the corporate reps are different, but come up with something that makes your product stand out. Impress us with your innovation and your consumer focus, not the venue, the food and the drink that will be forgotten by the end of the week.

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About Pippa Tshabalala

Tattooed Gamer. Writer. VO artist. Work in TV. Sony Xperia Brand Ambassador Bookings: unexpectedpippa@gmail.com

13 thoughts on “Opinion // On press launches

  1. I don’t see the point of these big things either – and I find they actually detract from showcasing the product – which *should be the point*
    It’s all just pissing money away for no really good reason, other than to use up marketing budgets.

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  2. Superbly composed article as always Pippa…
    Though I am not a journo and I have never attended a press launch as a guest…

    I can only agree with the subtext that most manufacturers, across all markets no less, have forgotten that launches in the current generation are OTT…
    We’re not stuck in the “grand” and “glitzy” 50’s and 60’s.

    Give the guests something to remember, but don’t stray from the point of press launches…

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    1. Thank you 🙂 Yes I think in general we all need to be very cognisant of who we’re speaking to and how to maximise engagement, as this is what drives talkability and product sales. Says me, jargon, jargon, jargon… 😉 You can tell I’m in marketing…

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      1. Jargon jargon jargon….

        I’ve been on the otherside of press launches, in the motoring industry and heavy-duty earth moving equipment…
        Bottom line is still the same…

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  3. The dancing etc could almost have been gotten away with: the bold colours, the striking power, the fluid grace all pointing to the phone in some way if you took art class and movie theory and were told to make round peg fit in square hole. It was the TERRIBLE SEXISM the whole night that put me off completely.

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    1. Agreed. But this is standard at some many press launches. Girls in cat suits that are totally necessary to sell a product… Huawei is hardly the only offender here. Not excusing it in any way, but it really is so commonplace that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record there. I thought I’d complain about something different 😉

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  4. AGREE! I think they hope that people will take pictures and tweet about the event, giving them more exposure. In reality, would be far better to just allocate a large number of handsets to give out for free to reviewers and the other “celebs” at the event to experience for themselves. All these events blur into one, and I’m no longer sure I even see any value in attending lately…

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    1. I attended because I haven’t been to one in a while. They are all too often scheduled during the day, and for those of us with day jobs, it just isn’t possible. That said, it reminds me of why I don’t attend and just review the product independently.

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    1. <3 :) Needed to be said. The worst part is that a lot of these companies really don't need these events. Huawei for example makes good products. They would be better off letting that speak for itself.

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  5. I’ve been to several tech events, and some I really enjoyed. A recent one involved some adrenaline inducing activities – while fun, didn’t make me love the product.

    There was one really good one though, and I ended up getting that device for myself. I liked it that much.

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