We were at the official announcement of the Oppo Reno8 models. The event was supposed to arouse nostalgia by taking place again in Paris. There, the Chinese brand presented itself to Europe for the first time and now promises to be fully committed to our continent. What can we expect from that promise?
Oppo doesn’t actually have a lot of history in the European market yet. The brand only introduced itself to our regions in 2018. However, it does not stop the smartphone manufacturer from adding a kind of nostalgic touch to the launch event of the Reno8 Pro. “Paris has a special place in our hearts. We also hosted the Find X event here when we entered the European market,” Nils Stockdale, Senior Global Carrier Solution Manager at Oppo, said at the opening of the event.
“Now, four years later, we are back.” Not in the Louvre this time, but a kilometer further in the basement of the historic Palais Brongniart. Above us in the gilded halls of the former Paris stock exchange building, the Oppo devices are already waiting. The more chic halls of the current conference center have to wait a little longer, because first we get an explanation about the new devices. In this way, the guests immediately know what to expect once they start working with the Reno8 in the monumental setting.
Oppo focuses on night photography with Reno8 (Pro)
Introduction in corona time
Oppo seizes the launch of the Reno8 series to warm up the European market for the brand. For those who are digitally present at the event, that message will be completely unnecessary. Few profiles other than ‘Oppo fan’ will be glued to a livestream for 45 minutes for a midrange smartphone. At least enough cameramen circled the stage to serve the fans at home like vultures around their prey.
But after those four years, the brand still has some fame and enthusiasm to win in Europe. We do not immediately notice this in the neat room where we are sitting, where Oppo employees even have to stand behind the audience due to lack of space. But ask a Fleming on the street for his opinion about the brand and the enthusiasm usually drips less.
The brand tries to gain brand awareness by partnering with popular sporting events. At the grand slam tennis tournament Roland Garros, the logo was already showing off along the field. The brand now also shook hands with UEFA, which is very interesting to reach European users.
The fact that BBK Electronics, which includes Oppo and OnePlus, is clinging to the European market so much is at least partly due to the mandatory departure of Huawei. A huge loss for Huawei that knocked Samsung off its throne as the largest smartphone manufacturer in 2020. Other Chinese brands immediately jumped into these abandoned markets themselves in search of new users.
On our way to the conference room in the overcrowded and sweltering Paris metro, we already spoke with Dries Cludts, PR manager for Belgium and Luxembourg at Oppo, about the European branch of the company. He jumped into the company in full corona time and was delighted to meet the Belgian journalists for the first time at a physical event. According to him, the brand has now managed to convince the European market, despite a difficult start. But he does not immediately see a live stream with twenty million viewers: “Only Apple can do that”.
Billy Zhang, President of Overseas Sales and Services at Oppo, reiterates the message with stronger wording on stage: “Europe is one of our most important regions.” He substantiates his statement with a series of figures, which the public can guess the origin of and which are given without little context. The market share in Western Europe grew by 94 percent and Oppo also places itself in the top 5 smartphone brands on our continent. It takes fourth place in this ranking.
Behind the president we clearly read the message ‘Oppo is committed to the European market’. Sounds nice and the audience reacts enthusiastically with applause and cheers, but it doesn’t create much clarity. That becomes all the more evident in an exclusive group media interview with Zhang, where we weren’t the only journalist wondering what that dedication really means.
Seats are limited for the interview, but we slip past security to take a seat in a room where, to our surprise, there are still poufs available. Zhang sits at the front on a high stool, close to the guests, centrally between an interpreter and the PR manager of Central and Eastern Europe.
Zhang begins his answer with the staff who work for Oppo in the European market. There, the brand has been working on local workers. “We recruit 85 percent of our staff locally. Employees who live in the country they serve are much better aware of what is happening in their own market.”
We recruit 85 percent of our staff locally.
Billy Zhang, President of Overseas Sales and Services at Oppo
When we arrived in Paris, we indeed noticed that two Flemish people took over the Benelux branch. They do not forget the Flemish-speaking press, a market that in the eyes of, for example, smartphone manufacturer Apple is too small to outsource further resources. Fortunately, the Chinese brands do not participate in that way of thinking.
But at Oppo, it’s also big words to refer to the local workforce as “dedication to Europe.” Non-Europeans occupy the higher positions and Zhang, who is responsible for the sales areas outside Europe, is, as his name gives away, of Chinese descent. Chatting with him is through an interpreter and that simply breaks the rhythm of talking to European journalists in English.
The foldable concept will come… someday
That is of course less relevant for the user of Oppo devices, so where does the brand promise to them? “We are currently restructuring our business in the region and expanding to 21 countries in total. Oppo will continue to bring innovative products and technologies to users with a more unified product portfolio across the region.”
Oppo wants to dedicate itself to the European market, but prefers to test its products first in the safe home port.
In any case, the brand is expanding its product line to the tablet market with us. For the time being, the folding concept is still predestined for the Chinese market, but Oppo also promises to eventually change that. Zhang does not give an exact date, he only knows that the Find N will not come to the European market. It will therefore be a later version of the foldable smartphone.
Once back upstairs, the last amateur football player seems to have left the light-marked football field in the large hall. Some vloggers are still busy filming a first ‘hands-on’ of the Oppo device and the other devices also manage to entertain a small audience. For the journalists in written journalism, it turns out to be time to leave.
Looking forward to the future
Oppo wants to dedicate itself to the European market, but prefers to test its products first in the safe home port. It acquires brand awareness by purchasing at major events. And the local teams may consist of residents of the country, the vast majority of the main profiles are of Chinese descent. Moreover, the launch of new lines is always behind the Chinese market.
That does not affect the quality of the product. We are largely positive about the tested smartphones. We usually do not understand the higher price tag than the equivalent OnePlus series. We were also allowed to subject the fold to a short test and we are still unanimously of the opinion that Oppo implements the concept better than Samsung.
We therefore remain curious about the moment when we can extensively test a foldable device from the manufacturer. That’s why we head out the next day with the plane in hand to the Eiffel Tower. Even though we are actually free, we still do not refuse to try the cameras with photos of the Eiffel Tower. We will keep the result for soon.