According to Channel News Australia, Samsung is to undergo a “radical brand makeover” at the start of next year. Far from being “radical”, we would argue that the Korean giant has been slowly drifting away from their corporate blueness to something a little more colourful and exciting for quite a while. In this article, we take a look at some of the key points in the company’s journey from meagre-blue to mega-brand in the mobile industry. More importantly, perhaps, we express our fears that the company may use its new clout and brand power to push substandard devices onto less-aware consumers rather than continue to provide quality and innovation.
Just to note- this isn’t some rags to riches story. We are well aware that Samsung is an enormous company with an enormous marketing budget. We’re really just looking at the reasons why we think people are buying their devices and how they have developed as a brand. We are also aware that Samsung doesn’t just make mobile phones – but as that is the area which has seen the most growth in the past two years, that is what we will talk about.
Blue and Boring: MWC 2011 – Galaxy S2 Launch
Let’s go back a couple of years to MWC 2011. Look, for example, the likes of the Android booth (below). It encapsulates the Android and Google’s brands. A place full of fun and excitement, freebies and happy, enthusiastic people. There’s even a slide… this. is. awesome. There can be no doubts that this was one of the most exciting places to be.
Google literally stole the show at MWC with their Android Booth and Pin campaign. Any OEM who dealt with Android was given their own little set of Android Pins which people could collect as they went from stand to stand. The whole place went bonkers for pins. Walking around MWC, I was hassled for pins constantly and at one point offered a ridiculous sum of €100 for the [supposedly rare] golden Android pin. In retrospect, I should have taken them money!
This is the type of marketing that every company wishes for – marketing which essentially does itself, and it’s something which Samsung didn’t really have at the time, but we will see them emulating successfully over the next couple of years.
Samsung’s booth at MWC 2011 had some nice swooshy lines going on the ceiling, but at the time of the Galaxy S2 announcement, a product which launched the company into the forefront of the Android Smartphone world, they were certainly lacking a little something. At this point (and arguably still) it was the quality of product which which led people to purchase Samsung’s devices. The S2 sold so well because it was a marvellous device; not because of a brilliant brand and brand strategy.
Creativity Leaks in: IFA2011 – Galaxy Note Launch
Following on from the Galaxy S2’s success, Samsung announced the Galaxy Note at IFA 2011. We see a bit of creativity thrown in with some friendly artists sketching some charming caricatures for people. It brightens up the atmosphere of the air-hanger-sized booth they have for their TVs and mobile phones. However, everything is quite blue, straight, suited and functional. There’s nothing wrong with this either. People were divided on the Galaxy Note, but once again, Samsung prevailed by having the best hardware on the market – and also fulfilling a category which people felt needed filling. Personally – we think the “Note” category was a bit of a gamble on their part, but one which seems to have paid off.
However – it would have been hard to get as much recognition for the device had the Galaxy S2 not raised the profile of the manufacturer so much. Since the Galaxy S2, they had a reputation for producing the best hardware at a competitive price. Samsung is starting to grow as a brand identity, and is starting to remould itself into something a little more consumer friendly.
Colour, Expression and Engagement: MWC 2012 – Galaxy Note 10.1 Launch
Half a year later, after the relative success of the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus, we see Samsung emerging from its corporate cocoon into a more colourful fledgling brand at MWC 2012. This coincides with the launch of the Galaxy Note 10.1, which, being a tablet, isn’t the strongest product they’ve announced. Walking around the city of Barcelona, we witness bazillions of people queuing up outside Samsung’s Galaxy Note studio to get T-shirts with a caricature of their face on it, badges, pictures – all sorts. The branding is full of colour, pictures and friendliness – Samsung are really pushing the boat out to engage the local community as well as the B2B side of things at the fair. People are not just enjoying the products, but the brand “experience” which Samsung is offering. Of course – handing out free stuff is always going to draw a crowd… but – compared to the Samsung of a year ago this is a BIG difference.
We are starting to see Samsung Mobile creep into the forefront of the mobile brand identities… moseying up up against the likes of Android with their MWC campaign. Even at the booth, things are getting a bit more colourful – with an array of colourful cases on the walls and brighter, more inviting colours than the bland royal blue. In fact, if anything, there’s more orange than blue! People helping out on the stands are equipped not with a rigid dark blue top, black shoes and white trousers as we’ve seen in the past – but ‘fun’ T-Shirts with their own caricature printed on it. The whole affair is much more relaxed, chilled out and cool. More youthful, more vibrant – more identifiable.
Those visiting the booth can have their caricature done in every corner – as long as they are OK with the process being displayed huge screens for others to ogle over. People are taking more interest over what’s going on at the booth, as well as the products themselves.
We can consider this a dry run to Samsung’s Olympic campaign in 2012, and certainly one of the larger milestones on the brand’s journey.
The announcement of the Galaxy S3 was pushed back to May, we imagine, in order to get maximum marketing impact throughout the Olympics and to encourage sales of the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S2 – which was still selling very well at the time. As a “Tier 1” sponsor – the Olympics is probably the best marketing platform you can get. Needless to say, the Galaxy S3 was, and remains to this day a quality product. The difference here, however, is that it is helped along not just for having good hardware, but especially by the brand and the marketing campaigns throughout the Olympic Games.
Olympics 2012 – Fun, Cheerful and Colourful
Looking at Samsung’s Olympic campaign, we saw them setting up “Mobile Pin” stores and Galaxy Studios around London. We have discussed Samsung’s Marketing at the Olympic’s at length in previous articles: in summary people really went gaga for pins. Hmmm… where have we seen that before? Well – we’re not accusing anyone of copying, because pin trading is always rife at the Olympics… but yeah – great original idea there!
As well as the usual Samsung-branded Olympic mascot pins, they released a special set of 49 which people could collect from the different studios around London. We witnessed huge queues would form at the studios to get the highly-collectable pins, with some sets selling for hundreds of pounds online. Madness!
Samsung managed to create a genuinely nice atmosphere at the Olympics – having artists on hand to draw caricatures, free T-Shirts, free badges and fun quizzes about their latest devices.
Almost There: IFA 2012 – Galaxy Note 2 Launch
Finally, the end of 2012 this year, Samsung stamped its final mark with the launch of the Galaxy Note 2. The whole launch event was based on magic, and had much more organic feeling toward the normal endless [boring] speeches. Even the Samsung stand was full of colour – displaying awesome magic routines on giant displays…
… and huge displays of lights which changed colour floating above the heads of customers:
So, IFA 2012 is pretty much the point at which Samsung’s Brand is right now, at the end of 2012. They have shifted from being, dare we say it, rather dull and corporate to a company somewhat more (though by no means completely) identifiable to its target market. More colour, youthfulness and creativity has definitely been creeping in over the past couple of years.
We are interested to see what Scott Bedbury will do to further Samsung’s brand evolution. A new logo is hardly going to be a “radical” change, more the final hurdle after of two years of gradual change.
Dangers of a Super-Brand
So – this is all very nice. Well done to Samsung for getting themselves out of a rut. But now that Samsung is becoming such a huge deal in the mobile scene consumers need to take care, and so should the company. Until this 6 months or so, Samsung has sold so many products based on how good they are. They might not have been the nicest looking devices ever made – but the value for money a consumer can get for the hardware was largely uncontested by the competition.
However, now we should really be a bit worried that Samsung is using its new brand identity to push sub-standard (for the price) devices onto consumers who don’t know any better. This is really the danger of any large brand. It wouldn’t be the first time that a company has made a name for itself by producing genuinely good products and innovative ideas, only to sit back and watch the money roll in whilst offering the consumer naff all for future releases. Actually – that happens far too much (Nokia, RIM…even Apple!), and eventually consumers get wind of the fact that they’re being ripped off and give their money to someone else.
Recently, Samsung announced the Galaxy S3 Mini. Everyone was expecting this to be a similarly spec’d device just with a smaller size, because historically the “S” in the name stands for supersmartphone – a flagship, groundbreaking device. Well – it turned out not. What was actually being offered to consumers here was something which had lower specs than the Galaxy S2 released over a year before. Quite worrying, as with the naming of the device, we see Samsung trying to use its brand power and not the quality of the device, to push a device onto consumers for more than it is actually worth.
We sincerely hope that Samsung do not go down this route. Whilst we understand that it is important for a company to make a profit – we think that a company like Samsung can, and should, be able to produce quality products without actually ripping people off. Rather than get all excited with their new-found a new brand identity in the Mobile market to exploit people and make more money, we hope that Samsung use it to give themselves more longevity and identity to offer consumers quality products at a fair price for years to come.