When we talk about smartphones and fanboys, we immediately think of the followers of Apple, or Apple as I sometimes call them, not without bad faith. We all have in mind the image of the customer, blinded by a brand, ready to spend the night camping in the cold, in a Quechua tent in front of an Apple Store. All that to pay in overpayments for your iPhone overpriced.
Like two Tesla Model 3 drivers, who meet at a red light and greet each other with a well-agreed nod, proud of having succeeded in life unlike those who are nothing, the iPhone owners are proud to stand out. "Think different", but all together, and all at the same time.
We are all and everyone's fanboy, fangirl or fanpeople
– "While on Android, we find much better for less. A real band of pigeons these Apple fanboys! Me, I'm a Mi Fan, I choose the quality / price ratio made in Xiaomi."
– "And I'm a member of the OnePlus Community with a capital C, I can read a technical sheet unlike iPigeons and I like Pete Lau's memes on Instagram."
– "Ah yeah, it's beautiful your OnePlus 8 Pro with 800 balls! My Realme X50 Pro does better at 200 euros cheaper. Well, I prefer Oppo."
– "But you didn't understand anything in life, all these brands belong to BBK. While Sony, this is a real brand that has a history but nobody talks about it, especially not the media, who want it make it flow! "
I stop this dialogue of imaginary deaf but unfortunately inspired by very real facts. One thing is certain, we are all and everyone's fanboy, fangirl or fanpeople. And this tragic state of affairs is the result of a very particular and oh-so-damaging mass marketing for the market.
Tribal marketing: fertile ground for fanboyism
It's by watching a video posted last year by the excellent – and very critical of modern marketing – Belgian Youtuber, A creative, that the idea for this article came to me. Unfortunately, one of my colleagues from Frandroid, Omar Belkaab, already published a paper at the time on the said video and I saw it only too late.
Except that this article does not explain how much illusion tribal marketing is and especially how much it harms consumers. So here I am (almost?) Saved from the accusations of plagiarism that I will welcome with kindness in the comments. But let's get back to our sheep, no pun intended.
According to the site "definitions-marketing.com", tribal marketing consists in using the social behaviors of certain groups of consumers (tribes) to promote a product or a service.
A tribe is characterized in particular by common rites, codes and behaviors. The codes may for example be dress codes or codes of linguistic expressions.
Concretely, it involves packing customers who a priori do not have much in common in a "silo of interests", as defined by the American entrepreneur and former marketing director of Yahoo !, Seth Godin, in his Ted-talk "The tribes we lead".
It is a phenomenon specific to the web and social networks, which allow fringes of the connected population to find a common interest. A niche that transcends their socio-cultural, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, religious and even sex or gender particularities.
Apple is obviously the embodiment of this tribal marketing, which federates around the guru Jobs of customers around the fire to make it a real "club". A technological and airtight bubble, which encloses itself in an increasingly uniform ecosystem of products and services, yet sold as being different from the rest. Hell is others, as we said at the beginning.
Divide into communities to rule better
But Apple is by no means a unique example of its kind. In the smartphone market, Android manufacturers all dream of having the same force of attraction as the Apple brand. It's undeniable.
But as Apple is the leader, its iPhones are still the best-selling smartphones in the world, you have to be a challenger. Find a common enemy to federate his clients, his tribe, against the dominant actor who becomes a target to be killed.
This is the positioning adopted by emerging Chinese manufacturers at the time, such as Xiaomi or OnePlus. With the Mi Fans or the OnePlus Community, the tribal inspiration is obvious. And we put everything on the price / quality ratio, unlike the superfluous luxury touted by Apple, to seduce the diehards who do not join the Apple clan.
So we talk to customers like friends, we get to know them on Twitter, we make memes or jokes while mocking the ruling class Apple while presenting themselves as the young and fun challenger. All this before going to the dark side and "going upmarket" as did OnePlus and Xiaomi to finally be replaced by another sub-brand of the same group in the flagship-killing segment: Realme and Redmi.
So follows a shift in the range that bites the tail, as I have described in the past with the death of the concept of smartphone-flagship. But apart from techies who really know the market, few OnePlus, Oppo or Realme fanboys are aware that all of these brands come from the same BBK Electronics group, for example.
So we have a sprawling tech giant that is flooding the market for products united under several brands that, apparently, each have their myth, their values and their tribe who defend them. But it's like thinking that a football club or an NBA team belongs to and represents their city. While this is a franchise that can very well move overnight without worrying about its loyal fans.
We therefore lobby for a brand without even being paid for. Free publicity from hardcore fans who believe they are smarter than the crowd. It is the last straw. Even influencers get paid to say good things about a product!
My tribe, your tribe: Brands become political
I told you about lobbying and a vicious circle. We can clearly see this with the multiplication of Android tribes which have already partially turned away from the common enemy Apple to escape between them.
Everyone preaches for their parish because he or she finds himself in the values conveyed by a brand that, by definition, does not have one. We are talking about private companies, motivated by private interests, by profit. But as we personify them, and associate them with a morality, they become in a way the spokesperson of our community, our tribe.
We saw this clearly with the clearly political positions taken by Twitter, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and the issue of racism in the United States. Twitter felt invested by its users to take a position in the public debate.
Other brands have even been asked to speak out on the subject. Brands embody ideas, values. And their customers want to be able to navigate. If Nike doesn't show support for anti-racism, I can't stay a member of the Nike tribe.
We then move from the football team to the political party. It's crazy! And on the smartphone market, we have more or less the same phenomenon with Huawei, for example. Since Trump's benching last May, Huawei has become a marker of the China-US trade cold war.
And Huawei is clearly playing on it to continue to federate its customers who are hesitant to leave the tribe, for lack of access to Google services on their smartphones. So we are playing the card of the small manufacturer, starting from nothing, who must face the injustice of the American giant, jealous of our success.
Even we at AndroidPIT have sometimes defended them, arguing that all is not lost and that the brand is on the right track to fall back on its feet. Which is not wrong. But it is a cognitive bias.
And we pretend to want to offer (in reality, sell) another world, a better world without Google, the bad guy Gafa and Trump's instrument. So much so that I still see comments under my test of the Huawei P40 which assure me that having to install a web shortcut to Chrome or Gmail is the same thing as having Google applications natively on your smartphone!
Finally, we're not all fooled, are we?
So everything is not all black in this story. I am the first to recognize that a brand that is close to its customers has positive aspects. It's nice to include consumers in the launch of a product, to generate engagement via social networks. Or even have them test products and take their feedback into account to improve the user experience.
And I am also fully aware that the tribal dimension is not the only factor in the attachment of certain consumers to a brand. A large part of technophiles is not fooled and knows how to share things. There are objective criteria, such as the quality / price ratio, the user interface, hardware innovations or the ecosystem that make you like one brand more than another.
But it is this notion of "loving" that bothers me and that I find dangerous. You shouldn't have feelings about a brand. Of course, a product can create emotions. We can attach sentimental value to it. We told you about it in this article about the phones that left the biggest impression on us. We are clearly in the register of emotion.
But a brand makes good products and also bad ones. And that, it should be pointed out to him, and not forgive him "because we like him anyway." So, I fully assume particularly appreciate the OnePlus smartphones.
The OnePlus 5 was my first Android smartphone and I loved the OnePlus 7T until I made it my daily. However, when OnePlus pushed the pricing cap a little too far with the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, I clearly expressed my disagreement.
I have no love for OnePlus. I get on well with the comm, I like some of their products more than other brands and I was saddened by the layoffs in Europe. But I don'tlove not OnePlus. If they start making bad smartphones, or if I find them too expensive, I will not continue to defend them.
Conversely, I don't hate a brand either, whatever the Sony fanboys say about some of my articles. I am not talking about Sony because their smartphones are not the most interesting at the moment. But when I was offered the opportunity to test the Xperia 10 II (teasing), I gladly accepted, it's my job.
Similarly, I do not particularly like the iPhone, but I know how to recognize the strength of Apple and its ecosystem.
And I am sure that many of you adopt the same philosophy. You must not be too loyal to a brand, especially when it relies more on this loyalty than on the quality of its products to sell them to you. So let's stop bickering, because we're all going to coo.
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