TCL Mobile – Launching a brand during COVID

How ALTER Agency Launched an International Phone Brand During COVID Lockdown

Published On: 22nd December 2020

2020 has not been the year anyone hoped for; best laid plans fell apart, hopes for the year were postponed, ambitions delayed or cancelled entirely.

However, we should also look back on what we achieved during lockdown.

Brands turn to e-commerce as high streets empty because of Coronavirus pandemic

Some people learned to paint, to make coffee art, ran a half marathon, or improved their tech skills. Humans across the world took the opportunity of lockdown to tryand grow. People found a way to display greatness, even when shut inside their own homes.

It has not been a ‘good’ time, but humanity tried to make the best of it. Businesses too developed for the better, suddenly forced to embrace new ways of working that they’d never considered or were resistant to. We discussed some of those changes previously, so maybe have a quick read of this and then come back!

Here at ALTER Agency we certainly feel that we achieved a lot during lockdown, and today we’re going to focus on a huge business achievement that we’re proud of.

Firstly, let’s set the scene.

TCL Mobile’s smartphone expansion and brand launch into the UK and Ireland. The tech giant had its eye on this mobile phone market and was very confident that its products had a niche: premium features on phones with market-leading displays, at low to mid-range prices.

So, what did we do? One thing that we pride ourselves on at ALTER is that our position as an independent agency allows us to be more reactive than most. Confronted with having to redraw our plans and strategies at short notice, we did, and ultimately, we succeeded. Here’s how…

Image for TCL Mobile Social Media created by ALTER Agency highlighting display power of phone

From day one, the gap in the market we focused on was a phone targeted at the abundance of film and cinema lovers across the countries. The TCL 10 Series boasts an incredible display, thanks to its NXTVision technology, allowing it to DISPLAY GREATNESS. Combined with its consumer-friendly pricing, it was set up to be really popular in that market. We just had to get our message out to that audience, and we decided signing up to some major partnerships was the way to do that.

Partnerships are actually a crucial theme to this reactive approach. The pillars of our pre-COVID campaign had been experiential and out-of-home marketing, with our award-winning field team, a bastion of previous ALTER success, our boots on the ground. All of these were taken away in their original form, so our new priorities became our partnerships, digital marketing, and good old-fashioned PR work. This didn’t mean we ignored our original pillars however.

In fact, we sustained our investment in out-of-home marketing, we just delayed it until people would be back on the streets. This allowed us to spread the name of TCL on some of the UK’s most iconic OOH spots, but we’ll get back to that.

Some of our partners were all set to go ahead such as BAFTA, The Luna Cinema, and TCL’s EU Brand Ambassador, including England Captain Harry Kane (more on him later).

Luna Cinema Event in Greenwich London | TCL Partnership with The Luna Cinema | Image taken on TCL 10 Pro

With BAFTA and The Luna Cinema, we were able to start asserting our position as a supporter of the British film scene, speaking directly to an audience that we were confident would be interested in the TCL 10 Series product range. A partnership that had been lost in Ireland though, had to be replaced. We prioritised finding the best provider of cinematic experiences in Ireland that would remain COVID compliant. This led us to Retro Drive-in Movies, a fantastic brand that would allow us to get our message across there.

With the partners signed up, next was building some brand credibility. That meant getting the phones into some of the UK and Ireland’s major tech pages. Fortunately, ALTER have a great relationship with some of the industry’s best, and TCL’s name and product was appearing in all the right places.

TechRadar, Evening Standard, The Verge, The Irish Times, Trusted Reviews, Techspurt… to name a few.  If there’s a major tech page, we tried to get TCL on it. Both the 10 Pro and 10L received strong reviews, with the TCL 10 Pro recently being nominated for ‘Best Mid-range Phone’ at the Trusted Reviews Awards 2020.

The initial launch was a huge success, with the UK leading all EU markets on sales. Now, those crucial partnerships start to come to the fore! TCL’s name was on essential film events like BAFTA’s first ever virtual series, the TV Sessions, featuring some of the biggest names in UK television like Suranne Jones, Jared Harris, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and many more! The aim of being a go-to brand for cinema lovers was underway.

We spoke earlier about the importance of the field team in how we at ALTER help our tech clients. They’re a phenomenal team and resource, being some of the best salespeople for the TCL Mobile brand and products, speaking the language of retail staff.

With retail stores being closed, we had to get creative to get the most out of this fantastic unit. This is where the inspiration for our blog Going Virtual, which looked into how turning to virtual events could avoid some of the challenges business faced due to COVID-19, came from!

Watching TCL 10 Pro during TCL Cinematic Trailer created through BAFTA Crew

Using filmed tutorials and seminars about the 10 Series handsets, they started training store staff from home. The field team were doing what they do best; giving store staff the tools and information to hero TCL Mobile to customers who came into stores when they re-opened.

Our partnership with BAFTA also opened up a very exciting avenue for ALTER and TCL. The chance to work with BAFTA Crew! They are a professional development and networking programme connecting emerging talent with film productions. Through it, we were able to help create TCL’s first ever cinematic trailer! Find out all about that right here.

Finally, we look at the TCL EU brand ambassadors. TCL have signed an incredible stable of brand ambassadors featuring some football’s most iconic stars: Paul Pogba, Marco Reus, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Saul Niguez, Krzysztof Piatek and, most importantly for the UK market, England Captain Harry Kane.

With the rights to use their likenesses across social media and out-of-home advertising, this was a fantastic opportunity to assimilate TCL’s branding with some of the most high-profile stars across the European market.

In the UK, working with a name like Harry Kane had two major bonuses. Firstly, his profile obviously draws the eye. On Instagram alone he has 9.7m followers, and his first post about the partnership enjoyed 32,431 likes and counting, a huge amount for a new to the market brand like TCL Mobile. But secondly, and maybe most importantly, it emphasises TCL’s commitment to leading the market.

By embodying the company’s philosophy to “Display Greatness”, both Harry Kane and TCL strive to inspire people by distinguishing themselves through sharing their displays of greatness with the world.Harry Kane Out of home advertising on the London IMAX at Waterloo

Harry Kane was representing TCL across some of the most identifiable OOH advertising spots in the UK, including the iconic London IMAX! Any passer-by’s eye is drawn to the immensely recognisable Kane, and instantly the cycle of credibility and profile continues to maximise TCL’s awareness!

Not every step taken was about maximising sales figures though. Another collaboration was created very early on, and we can’t wait to emphasise it as COVID restrictions start to lift: Performance Plus Sport.

TCL Social media post showing Performance Plus Sport participants boxingPerformance Plus Sport (PPS) are a charity committed to getting the best out of young people through sport. They support young sportspeople with the right attitude, creating opportunities for those who wouldn’t have had the chance otherwise.

They do fantastic work, and TCL and ALTER were excited about having a presence at their events and helping raise their profile to the UK TCL market. Unfortunately, COVID has denied them the opportunity to host many front-facing events at this time. However, plans are already underway for 2021 to bring PPS to the forefront, and help TCL give back to the community they want to engage.

Whether it’s partnerships, collaborations, products or something else, we can promise that this is only the beginning for TCL Mobile UK, and what’s coming over the hill is even bigger than what’s come before. But if you want to find out about those, you’ll just have to join the growing number of people who follow TCL Mobile and their social feeds, to see just how big things are going to get!

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