Ahead of the curve
Samsung continues to make itself relevant to its consumers.
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).
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.
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