Huawei hands out free bubble tea: A significant enough move to retain consumers?

Huawei will be giving away free cups of premium tea from homegrown tea joint Partea to thank its customers. Over the two weekends in the month of July, customers with a Huawei smartphone will be rewarded a free beverage of their choice.

This comes amidst blacklist imposed by the US government that American companies such as Google can no longer work with Huawei due to concerns over security, casting doubt over its future. Huawei has also been a topic in the conversations around the ongoing trade war between the US and China. Recently, US President Donald Trump agreed to “loosen” restrictions on the smartphone manufacturer after a meet-up with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 (G20) summit.

In a statement to Marketing, a Huawei spokesperson said the company looks to show appreciation for its customers’ unwavering support through a complimentary beverage offer to users in Singapore.

Huawei is clearly experiencing global troubles and no one can definitely say what the outcome will be, said Simon Bell, managing director, FITCH Singapore, adding that “rewarding loyal consumers is perhaps the only real avenue available”. Moreover, in the midst of security concerns, the brand has found the need to turn to activations to keep its associations positive in local markets. As such, in a market like Singapore, it comes as no surprise it is giving away free bubble tea.

“Huawei is clearly experiencing global troubles and no one can definitely say what the outcome will be. For those consumers who own Huawei’s products, this possibly brings up questions about whether to stay loyal or ditch their handset and buddy up with another brand,” Bell said.

Although rewarding customers can be short-lived, Bell said other avenues Huawei could potentially associate with include social issues such as sustainability. “The goal would be to stay part of a positive narrative with consumers. Of course, as this goes on, behind the scenes, the powers that be are thrashing out what the brand’s future might look like,” he added.

Meanwhile, Luke Lim, group chief executive officer, AS Louken said giving out freebies is a common marketing tactic used by companies, adding that Huawei’s association to tea could be due to Singapore’s love for bubble tea. However, he was of the view that the impact of the campaign is limited and insignificant.

“I believe the impact of the campaign is limited and insignificant as Huawei’s uncertainty of its OS related issue may still linger in consumers’ mind. As long as that perception does not change, any campaign now has its limitation in terms of its effectiveness,” Lim said.

According to YouGov’s plan & track data, the recent US restrictions did affect Huawei’s brand health in Singapore. The excitement for the new P30 model had Singaporeans lining up the night before the unveiling, and the buzz surrounding the phone didn’t die out after the launch in April.

The P30 launch not only got Singaporeans talking about the brand, it also made them more likely to recommend the brand. Huawei’s Recommend score rose from 19.7 the day of the launch and peaked at 29.0, a rise of +9.3 points, while its Ad Awareness score rose from 33.6 the day of the launch and peaked at 47.8, a jump of +14.3 points.

However, after the second week of May when Huawei was restricted from doing commerce with US companies, its buzz score dropped -30.7 points, and stood at 4.4 – the lowest ever level YouGov has measured for the brand. Singaporean consumers were also said to be less likely to recommend the brand now, with its Recommend score falling -10 points from 27.1 to 17.1.