26 July was a day to remember. Thousands of elderly Singaporeans gathered at various shopping malls and heartland mobile phone shops islandwide to get their hands on a Huawei Y6 Pro phone for an unbelievably low price of $54.
Just two days prior, Huawei announced this $54 Y6 Pro promotion, a sharp discount compared to the original selling price of $198, to commemorate Singapore’s 54th year of independence. Only the elderly aged 50 years and above were eligible for this promotion, which was slated to run over three days from 26 to 28 July.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Scenes of mayhem were shared all over social media, with Mothership publishing no less than 13 different articles about the morning’s proceedings, as angry and frustrated elderly stood outside Huawei stores in vain hope that the deal would somehow be honoured and their hours of queuing would not be for nothing. A woman was even arrested for criminal trespassing and there were allegations of stocks running out before stores opened.
Here are five reasons for this overwhelming saga that Singapore consumers and marketers can learn from.
#1 Capitalising On Singapore’s Birthday And Honouring Singapore’s Seniors
Huawei had a great marketing strategy — by packaging the promotion as a way to “celebrate 54 years of nation-building”, they gave off the impression that the promotion was due to run out of honour for Singaporeans, and gratitude for the elderly.
The campaign’s target audience, the elderly, will feel special having been entitled to the promotion. They feel exclusive and have a mindset of “Since I qualify for the promotion, I might as well take advantage of it.” By limiting the promotion only to the elderly, Huawei gave the elderly more reasons to go and queue.
Contrast this with a promotion anyone can get, such as, all Singaporeans can buy a pair of spectacles for 50 percent off — if you do not need spectacles, you will not desperately queue for it. The perception of oneself as part of an exclusive group will spur you to want to own the product.
#2 Creating Scarcity With Time-Limited Deal
In their Facebook post, Huawei claimed that the “Promotion runs while stock lasts”. This created the impression that each participating outlet would not be able to cater to every customer, which could have prompted some of the elderly to queue as early as 4 am in fear of losing out.
However, imagine the horror when “while stock lasts” equates to 20 to 40 sets per store, as alleged by netizens and elderly on the ground. Some of the official Huawei concept stores even ran out of stocks before opening hours.
Perhaps, many Singaporeans assumed that “while stocks last” meant thousands, or at least a few hundreds of phones allocated to each store, which explains why so many folks queued and waited. For the elderly who have queued for hours on end, it is easy to empathise with their anger and disappointment.
#3 Fear Of Promotion Ending Prematurely
In 2018, a marketing campaign gone horribly wrong took the internet by storm and left many angry netizens raging. It is non-other than the OWNDAYS “like, share, and comment” promotion which saw more than 2,000 pairs of spectacles given out for free.
What started off as a promotion meant to encourage friends to like each other’s post on Instagram saw social media leaving “like my post” comments on strangers’ accounts, or creating multiple fake accounts, to increase the number of likes on their post. The number of likes, comments, and shares each person accumulates corresponded to the discounts they will get.
The promotion was supposed to last a month but had to end a few days later due to overwhelming response. This brought shock to many potential customers, with some on Facebook threatening to report OWNDAYS to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).
Such poorly thought out, marketing fails have taught Singaporeans that if they want to enjoy a huge promotion or freebie, they need to act quick. You never know when a promotion will cease with immediate effect, so fastest fingers (and feet) first!
#4 Appealing To The Kiasu Traits Within
Singaporeans love to queue. From McDonald’s Hello Kitty plushies to Gong Cha milk tea, Singaporeans have no problems queuing hours to get what they want.
Drama usually ensues, with instances of shattered glass doors and injured people at the McDonald’s Hello Kitty launch in January 2000 and people fainting while queuing for the Huawei Y6 Pro this year.
Apparently, we are all made of steel, and when it comes to queuing, we do not falter.
#5 An Irresistible Price
Some credit must be given to Huawei. The Y6 Pro was only launched this year, and considering it is a smartphone, the $54 price tag is a steal.
Contrast this to the original price of $198, consumers enjoy more than 70 percent in savings. For comparison’s sake, a 64GB Google Pixel 3a phone already costs more than $600. With such a huge difference in price, it is no wonder that people are willing to queue for the Y6 Pro.
Huawei Gives Out Vouchers In Apology
As a remedy, Huawei pledged to give $100 vouchers to the 5,000 registered customers who expressed interest to purchase the Y6 Pro.
While this is an act of goodwill on Huawei’s part to appease the crowd, negative comments persist online. Netizens have called out Huawei’s promotion as a publicity stunt for its phone, with some saying that the promotion was geared towards the elderly on purpose to promote the idea of “giving back to the generation that nurtured our country”.
Despite Huawei’s genuine efforts and contrition, perhaps damage has been done and things will never be the same again. Already, marketing efforts like Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s $5.40 drink promotion have left a bitter taste that called back memories of Huawei’s failed promotion.
Perhaps the silver lining is that Singaporeans, especially the elderly, would now sceptical to know that if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.