Jagjit Singh

There’s something about Nothing: How Carl Pei created buzz, hype around Phone (1)

 Carl Pei wasn’t channeling David Ogilvy but could very well have been when he began the so-called keynote of the Phone (1) — the first phone from his startup Nothing. Pei, looking relaxed and casual, began by saying “don’t worry this won’t be like the other two-hours long keynotes” — a clear dig at Apple, Samsung that are known for having elaborate presentations while launching a product. Why the mention of Ogilvy — arguably one of the greatest admen — here? Because Ogilvy once famously said, “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.” Pei’s message in the keynote was — we aren’t going to bore you with detailed camera specs, or the number of cores the processor has, or how fast certain operations can be performed. Instead, it was all about the experience and process of how the Phone (1) came to life. 

Something new, something borrowed

Pei didn’t hold back any punches throughout his keynote and without taking names took shots at almost every Android phone. And the co-founder of Nothing has been clear from its inception that the smartphone industry is “boring” and they want to “shake it up” and change things. Perhaps that’s why Pei and Nothing have been able to create a ridiculous amount of buzz around Phone (1). 

Nothing has been anything but conformist. While brands are constantly trying to create a buzz through “leaks”, Nothing from time to time maintained the hype and buzz around Phone (1) by voluntarily sharing information. Quite a few specs — including design and processor — were told by Nothing in advance. What it did was it stopped speculation and rumour mills from churning but aroused curiosity about price or how the processor perhaps may not be good enough to compete with rivals. Whatever be the thought process behind it, one thing was clear: the conversation around Nothing and Phone (1) never stopped till the phone actually launched. 

Not everything Nothing has done has been ‘original’. The marketing playbook some would argue was straight out of OnePlus' early days — not surprising as the man behind it was none other than Pei. The select invites to be sent for the first few buyers was something OnePlus did with its first phone and Nothing followed the same idea. Again, not original but the hype machine continued to whir constantly around Phone (1). 

Pei knows that the smartphone market isn’t an easy place to survive in. Nothing isn’t the first brand trying to be revolutionary. Many brands have tried to go down the road less travelled but it is called the road less travelled for a good reason. Remember the Essential phone? Wacky design, unconventional looks, brand new OS, features that were never seen — ultimately the phone only was never seen. Launched by Andy Rubin — the ‘father’ of Android — but turned out to be a damp squib. Fun fact: Pei acquired Essential in 2021. 

One thing that Pei very well knows is that the real hard work starts now and he has been vocal about it. The Phone (1) — starts at Rs 32,999 — and will set the foundation of where Nothing ends up in the next few years. Pei and Nothing know that buzz and hype will only get you till a certain point. They have been creative, they have been the talk of the town but to quote Ogilvy again — “if it doesn’t sell, then it is not creative.” 

Post a Comment