Deccan Chronicle

Key to survival: Tips that mobile brands could borrow from Leicester's success story

Deccan Chronicle | DC Correspondent

Published on: May 6, 2016 | Updated on: May 6, 2016

With traction around smartphones today, one would argue with big established players in there.

Leicester City celebrate after winning their first ever Premier League trophy.

Leicester City celebrate after winning their first ever Premier League trophy.

You do not need me to stress on how smartphones have impacted our world and how we can barely go like a couple of minutes without peeking into them. Or for that matter, how good and powerful smartphones are. Things are only going to get better and phones will only become more personal to the point that they will become true extension of an individual if they are not already. There is a lot of traction around smartphones today but one would argue that with so many big established players in there today, the chances of small ones making an impact are low especially if you are an unknown quantity. For example, how do you make a brand more aspirational than Apple or how do you bring more marketing budgets than Samsung or how does one make metallic phones better than HTC? The answer is tough, it's a competitive industry and household names are powerful. Perhaps OnePlus could be considered the last virtually unknown brand to make a dent, but they too seem to be blowing hot and cold.

This thought got me thinking that the same analogy that applies to the game of football, my favorite topic to follow if I am not serving some kind of professional commitment. Is it not the same in big leagues such as the English Premier League or even the La Liga in Spain where, although 20 teams compete for the top prize, you always have a select batch of two or three, sometimes four who are outright favorites to win the crown. In England for example, you know that Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United start a season as outright favorites or Real Madrid or Barcelona in Spain. This is akin to saying that the best phone this year will come from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi or LG. It's a safe bet. So what hope does it offer to a 'Brand X' which is just new in the market or has always struggled? Should a mid table finish be sufficient? Most experts would say yes, that is ideal. Get a single digit market share and build steady.

In the English Premier League, that is precisely what most experts said about Leicester City, a team that scraped relegation by the skin of their teeth last term, surviving only in the last game of the 38 game long season. In fact, Leicester were one of the most heavily bet on teams to get relegated. And then the fairy tale happened and out of nowhere, Leicester won the Premier League, the most prestigious league in the footballing world. This is an equivalent of BlackBerry beating Samsung in terms of total smartphones sold in an year, doesn't sound possible right? How did Leicester pull this off and what can the smartphone players take away from this achievement is what follows:

1) Play to your strengths: After the relegation scare of last year Leicester signed Claudio Ranieri as their new Manager. While Claudio had ton of experience of managing some massive teams like Juventus, Chelsea, Monaco etc in his managerial career, he was seen a bit of an underachiever in a managerial career that lasted a couple of decades. When Renieri came on board, he bought a style of play with him, attack with two forwards, stay compact and hit teams on counterattack with pace. Leicester, through the season, no matter who they played, stayed true to this style. It meant every single member of the team knew their job and executed it perfectly because the plan was set. With the style perfectly complementing the players, Leicester played the game to their strength irrespective of the opposition, as the likes of Manchester City found out in cruel beating. We have seen too many good smartphone brands ditching their strengths recently, for example the sub-par keyboards that BlackBerry did on their recent phones or even the Android phones that Nokia made or even the boomsounds going away on HTC flagships. It is absolutely imperative that to be successful, you need to find your success and stick by it through thick and thin.

2) Last year is as good as last year: Leicester City showed that you do not need to let the sorry past pull you down today. Like every season is a new start in football, it would be great if smartphone players approached every quarter or maybe even a new financial year as though the previous one was a writeoff. Yes, I understand that a lot goes into it and your last year always has an influence especially on the economic front but the point is to let the failure or success live in the past and start afresh. The biggest example that I can think of to elucidate this point is HTC who continue to live off on their glorious past and not make the directional switch. Samsung showed that sometimes shredding that scale of past, like they did with the Samsung Galaxy S7 can be a breath of fresh air and actually work.

3) You may have one in a million chance, but that counts too: Nobody believed Leicester could win the league. Absolutely not even the most optimistic. However, the fact that they ensured their survival last year, meant they could stay in the league and compete with the big boys. What if they had gotten relegated? Well, we would not be reading this tale. So, even if today is not looking all that sunny, it is important to keep slogging away and survive. Wait for the season to end and come back like no tomorrow. We have seen Motorola practically disappear from the face of consumer tech, but making a spectacular comeback already. Nokia, maybe it's the time for you to come back.

4) A positive thinking and calm man at the helm may be a better choice than the most glamorous choice: I am obviously not the best person to comment on the leadership of a multi-million dollar multinational mobile brand, since I would not know them personally but sometimes a calm presence at the top helps. You could argue the other way, where Steve Jobs was perhaps a fireball and how well did Apple did with him at the helm, but then you see someone like Sundar Pichai and you see what a calm presence can do. Sundar, for all his achievements was not a glamorous choice, neither was Satya Nadella, Stephen Elop on the other hand was. We all know how this worked out. Lead by Claudio Ranieri, a man with small ego and less glamor around him, Leicester reached their promised land. The more glamorous pick, big ego, successful men like Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, could just watch and applaud. Often, getting the right fit is more important than the best possible pick when it comes to the man running the ship.

5) A season is long and everyone must play a part: Leicester City had of the smallest squad of players out of the 20 teams participating the Premier League in 2016. Yet, even the man off the bench, someone like Demarai Gray, who would barely start a game, knew his role of coming off the bench with twenty minutes to go and stretching the opposition and threatening with his unique skillset. A season is long, 11 players cannot win it for you, even if they are the best in their positions. You need a squad, a well drilled team. Similarly just having the best screen or the best body or even the best OS onboard will not be enough if the support cast doesn't play well. Every single member in the team must do their duty well for that trophy to come home. We have seen so many good products, for example the Nexus 10, (remember that?) that just did not live to their potential for one reason or the other.

6) If you are an underdog and achieving, you will be backed and loved..but only for one year: Everyone loves a great comeback or an underdog winning. It's like watching Roger Federer finally win a French Open (no, it won't happen). You want an unknown quantity to do well. But the moment that happens, expectations rise and you will be measured against that one great product you delivered. Just take the example of OnePlus or even Xiaomi. Since their initial products were blockbusters, everyone wants to follow them to see what their latest and greatest is. And if it is not as good or wow-some as the first time when they achieved heavens, they will be criticised and how. Now next season, Leicester City will have to play with pressure on their back with the world watching. Also, you bet the big four will come strong in and all gunning. They would no longer be the darling team everyone wants wins. They would be under the scanner and microscope even more. So, if you have achieved success, it is important to follow it up strongly and not just be a flash in the pan, because memories are short and options are a lot. Out of sight and out of mind, you see.

7) Sometimes traditional things work wonders: Football has evolved a lot. In fact, if you have been following the game, you will see such a difference even from late 90s to today. From swashbuckling Alex Ferguson teams, we have come to more stylish and possession loving Guardiola teams. Teams are cautious today, not leaving the back door open. But what Leicester did was go back to football, how it is done in England. Physical, fast and spirited. That is how Manchester United have entertained their fans for years. That is how the great Galacticos side of Real Madrid was. Sometimes, going the traditional route is good. In the era of 4-3-3, Leicester played 4-4-2 fearlessly. It was a breath of fresh air and beautiful. We have seen some brands do traditional stuff. Gionee for example, was banking massively on their retail partners, something Nokia did so successfully, Samsung has always been traditional in their marketing efforts, including embracing new platforms, it works well. We wish more players would seek in the solace of the successful past to find the formula for success in the racing present than doing something different for the sake of it.

Sports, in my opinion, is a great teacher. There are so many parallels you can draw and learn from sports and this triumph of Leicester is probably the best fairy tale we have experienced in a long time. It may not repeat and perhaps this article would be worth keeping away in a museum for when Leicester won the Premier League, but what those brave footballers have done is taught us a lesson, a lesson for life where no matter the odds, as long as the betting is not suspended, you can always turn it around.

This article has been contributed by Arpit Verma, who manages Digital Marketing initiatives at

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