Ahead of the curve

Sam­sung con­tin­ues to make it­self rel­e­vant to its con­sumers.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - Sam­sung’s #DoWhatYouCant TVC fea­tur­ing the Gear VR and Sam­sung S8. — Screen­cap bytz@thes­tar.com.my

RE­MEM­BER watch­ing movies like Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble, Ter­mi­na­tor 2 and Ma­trix and mar­vel­ling at all the fu­tur­is­tic gad­gets and pro­grams in it? You prob­a­bly thought some of the tech­nol­ogy was just too so­phis­ti­cated for any­one to ever repli­cate in your life­time.

A sim­i­lar film is the seven-minute fea­ture that only visi­tors to the Sam­sung In­no­va­tion Mu­seum at Su­won, South Ko­rea, get to watch. The film lets you peek into the daily life of a young fam­ily of three – a mother, fa­ther and their tween daugh­ter. As morn­ing breaks, the hus­band and wife wake up with the help of a Sam­sung de­vice or two. The hus­band heads to the bath­room to brush his teeth. He looks in the mir­ror... ex­cept it’s not just a reg­u­lar mir­ror but one that al­lows him to see and have ac­cess to se­lected apps that he has on his phone, wear­able gear or even TV. The wife is al­ready in the kitchen, read­ing the news and go­ing through her day’s sched­ule dis­played on the re­frig­er­a­tor door and counter top. The daugh­ter is out on a school trip and her par­ents know ex­actly where she is and what she is do­ing be­cause she’s record­ing things us­ing her con­tact lenses and send­ing the im­ages to them.

When the film ends and the credit rolls, there’s a long list that tells you which items fea­tured in it are cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped at Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics. The mes­sage is clear: Such things would soon no longer ex­ist only in our imag­i­na­tion, but in real life.

Ac­cord­ing to Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics, “one gen­er­a­tion’s im­pos­si­ble is the next one’s nor­mal”. The line comes from the com­pany’s The New Nor­mal TV com­mer­cial that fea­tured prod­ucts like the Galaxy S8 smart­phone, Galaxy Tab S3 tablet, Gear VR and Gear 360 in which retina scan­ners, wa­ter-re­sis­tant elec­tron­ics and vir­tual re­al­ity are, sim­ply put, “nor­mal” things to have around us.

The com­mer­cial goes hand-in­hand with the com­pany’s on-go­ing global mar­ket­ing cam­paign, #DoWhatYouCant. It en­cour­ages con­sumers to do things once thought dif­fi­cult or un­fea­si­ble. The cam­paign kicked off in 2016 to pro­mote the Galaxy S7 Edge and the Rio Olympics, of which Sam­sung was an of­fi­cial spon­sor (the com­pany is also spon­sor­ing next year’s Win­ter Olympics, PyeongChang 2018).

Chang­ing faces

The global cam­paigns and com­mer­cials are part of Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics’ con­tin­u­ing plan to mar­ket it­self as more of a life­style brand rather than just a reg­u­lar ol’ tech cor­po­ra­tion.

Af­ter all, Sam­sung did not start out as a tech com­pany; in­stead it was founded as a gro­cery store in 1938, a tu­mul­tuous pe­riod for Ko­rea. De­spite the chal­lenges, the com­pany man­aged to grow and started trad­ing goods like tex­tiles and sugar.

Sam­sung only en­tered the elec­tron­ics in­dus­try in 1969 – it pro­duced its first tele­vi­sion sets a year later. This was fol­lowed by the pro­duc­tion of home ap­pli­ances like wash­ing ma­chines, re­frig­er­a­tors and mi­crowave ovens.

In the 1980s, changes in the com­pany saw Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics putting a fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, which re­sulted in the pro­duc­tion of mo­bile phones some­time in the early 1990s and the de­vel­op­ment of mi­crochips and semi-con­duc­tors.

Smart­phones, LCD TVs and other dig­i­tal prod­ucts all came shortly af­ter that, thus putting the com­pany on the global map as one of the top elec­tron­ics brands in the world.

How­ever, times have changed and com­pa­nies to­day are con­stantly em­bark­ing on dif­fer­ent mar­ket­ing strate­gies to meet fast ris­ing con­sumer de­mands and, to put it plainly, beat the com­pe­ti­tion.

“If we wanted to be an iconic brand, we had to stop look­ing and talk­ing like a tech brand, so we came up with a new vis­ual iden­tity (for Sam­sung). And be­yond just look­ing like a life­style brand, we also be­gan to change the way we talked about the brand.

“In­stead of talk­ing about the speed and other tech specs of a prod­uct, we talked about how the prod­uct was rel­e­vant in a con­sumer’s life,” ex­plained Pio Schun­ker, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent and head of global mar­ket­ing, Sam­sung Mo­bile. Schun­ker was speak­ing to jour­nal­ists from Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore, Tai­wan and Aus­tralia at the Sam­sung Dig­i­tal City in Su­won re­cently.

Schun­ker pointed out that one of the com­pany’s pop­u­lar TV com­mer­cials (TVC) pro­mot­ing the Galaxy S7 Edge high­lighted the fact that the phone was wa­ter re­sis­tant with­out ever men­tion­ing the term “IP68” (ba­si­cally a rat­ing given to gad­gets for dust and wa­ter re­sis­tance). You have prob­a­bly seen the TVC be­fore: A guy gives his num­ber to a girl and then waits for said girl to call him. When she fi­nally does, his phone falls into a sink that’s filled with wa­ter ... but he still man­ages to an­swer it any­way.

“If we kept say­ing, ‘IP68’, no one would know what we’re talk­ing about. But this sim­ple boy-meets­girl story per­fectly sends out the mes­sage (that the phone is wa­ter-re­sis­tant), with­out us hav­ing to say too much,” said Schun­ker.

Good times, bad times

The sub­tle changes that Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics has made so far have proven to be ef­fec­tive not just in re-po­si­tion­ing it­self as a life­style brand but as a trusted global brand. Re­cently, Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics was ranked 6th on In­ter­brand’s “Best Global Brands” of 2017 with a value of US$56.2bil (RM236­bil), up one spot from last year.

The com­pany has con­sis­tently been in the top 10 list for five years now but this year’s achieve­ment is per­haps seen as a lot more re­ward­ing be­cause of the Galaxy Note 7 cri­sis.

“That re­ally im­pacted our rep­u­ta­tion and brought about a pos­si­ble long-term fi­nan­cial loss,” said Schun­ker. “But we’re a com­pany that favours ac­tion and not just in­tro­spec­tion. We couldn’t just curl up in a foetal po­si­tion and not take ac­tion.

“The first thing we had to do in or­der to make things right was to take ac­count­abil­ity. And as much as it hurt us to re­call a prod­uct that we truly loved and be­lieved in, we knew it was the only thing that we should do.”

Af­ter re­leas­ing an of­fi­cial state­ment ad­mit­ting to the phone’s bat­tery mal­func­tion and re­call­ing over 2.5 mil­lion Galaxy Note 7 units – whether sold or un­sold – around the world, Sam­sung quickly launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter.

“When we did the re­call we told ev­ery­one that we ac­tu­ally did not know what was wrong but that we would ex­haust our­selves to make sure we un­cover the an­swers to our con­sumers’ com­plete sat­is­fac­tion and trust. There were 700 re­searchers and en­gi­neers; 200,000 phones and 30,000 bat­ter­ies were tested over a pe­riod of months,” ex­plained Schun­ker.

Once Sam­sung fig­ured out the prob­lem, the com­pany im­me­di­ately set out to make things right again by re­veal­ing all their find­ings about four months af­ter the re­call.

“We were in­cred­i­bly trans­par­ent about the whole thing. We re­vealed our find­ings on Jan 23 (2017) and a day later, we launched the qual­ity as­sur­ance pro­gramme,” Schun­ker shared.

Re­gain­ing trust

Un­der the qual­ity as­sur­ance pro­gramme, Sam­sung de­vel­oped its 8-Point Bat­tery Safety Check which in­volves putting bat­ter­ies through ex­treme test­ing, fol­lowed by care­ful X-ray and hu­man in­spec­tion.

The pro­gramme was part of an at­tempt to re­gain trust from con­sumers and true enough, it worked.

Schun­ker added that once con­sumer trust started to sta­bilise, the com­pany moved on to the next stage, brand love. “We had new prod­ucts to in­tro­duce and the stakes were much higher this time around. We needed to re-es­tab­lish our­selves be­fore the launch of the Galaxy S8, a cru­cial flag­ship phone for us,” he said.

That was when Sam­sung re­leased The New Nor­mal, and fol­lowed that with another heart­warm­ing TVC fea­tur­ing an os­trich who re­ally, re­ally wanted to fly. “We make what can’t be made so you can do what can’t be done” went the bold state­ment in the ad­ver­tise­ment, which pro­moted Sam­sung’s vir­tual re­al­ity head­set Gear VR, and the Galaxy S8/S8+.

Even bolder was the com­pany’s de­ci­sion to “re-in­tro­duce” the Galaxy Note 7 into the mar­ket, this time un­der the name Galaxy Note Fan Edi­tion (pic left).

Ba­si­cally, the Note FE is a brand new de­vice that uses unutilised com­po­nents from the Note 7. This means it has the same fea­tures and specs as the Note 7, but with a smaller bat­tery ca­pac­ity (3,200mAh).

Of course, Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics has made sure that ev­ery­thing in the phone goes through its strict qual­ity as­sur­ance pro­gramme be­fore the phones are re­leased. In Malaysia, the Note FE went on sale on Oct 25 at the rec­om­mended re­tail price of RM2,599 in either coral blue or black onyx.

This re-in­tro­duc­tion of sorts is part of Sam­sung’s com­mit­ment to lessen its car­bon footprint and be an en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly cor­po­ra­tion. But be­yond that, it is also a great way to give loyal con­sumers who have stuck with the brand through try­ing times a taste of “what could have been” with the Note 7.

With the Note FE, you can fi­nally (safely) do what you couldn’t with the Note 7.

Sam­sung re-es­tab­lished it­self with the launch of Galaxy S8, a cru­cial flag­ship for the com­pany. — Sam­sung

Schun­ker says Sam­sung rather fo­cus on how its prod­ucts are rel­e­vant to the con­sumer than just tech specs. — MELODY L. GOH/The Star

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