Case Detail

Case Summary

OnePlus: Crossing the Chasm in the Smartphone Market

Case Number: 5-216-253, Year Published: 2016

HBS Number: KEL981

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Authors: Mohanbir Sawhney; Pallavi Goodman

Key Concepts

Distribution Channels, International Business, Marketing Communications, Marketing Strategy, Social Media, Strategic Positioning, Company Culture, Targeting, Segmentation, Go-to-Market Strategy


In early 2016, after the success of its first two smartphones, the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2, China-based startup smartphone maker OnePlus was deciding how to build on its early success and grow into a global contender in the highly competitive smartphone market. Technology enthusiasts and geeks had flocked to purchase the first two generations of its smartphones and expectations were high for the company's next product. The company's founders, Pete Lau and Carl Pei, faced the challenge of broadening the appeal of OnePlus to address the mainstream market without alienating its core customer base.

"Crossing the chasm" from the early adopters to the mainstream market involved addressing three interrelated questions: First, what segments should OnePlus target as it sought to grow beyond its loyal fan base? Second, what value proposition and positioning strategy should it adopt to appeal to these target customers? Finally, what distribution and marketing communications strategy should it employ to make best use of its limited financial resources? A key consideration in formulating its strategy was to stay true to the company's culture and mission of "Never Settle" by charting its own course and not emulating the strategies of much larger competitors like Apple, Samsung, LG, and HTC.

Learning Objectives

To understand the challenges that technology companies face in "crossing the chasm" from early adopters to the mainstream market; the importance of coherence and consistency in a company's choice of target audience, value proposition, and go-to-market strategy; the strengths and limitations of using loyal fans and social media to build awareness and sales for an innovative startup company; and the importance of personalities and company culture in the evolution of a founder-led company.

Number of Pages: 28

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Marketing

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: China

Industry: Mobile telecommunications

Organization Name: OnePlus

Organization Size: Medium

Decision Maker Position: Founder/CEO

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2016