Oh, to be an electronics behemoth.
With its infrastructure and reach, Samsung has the power to build products in infinite categories and ship billions of products worldwide.
However, there is something very wrong with one particular strand in its corporate DNA. It’s the one labeled “marketing savvy.”
Here’s a company with a number of hit products in the mobile space and an advertising budget several times that of Apple. Yet, despite a few creative moments, something deep inside keeps pulling it back to advertising mediocrity.
See Exhibit A above. This is the newly released 2.5-minute piece being deservedly slammed as one of the worst commercials ever made.
Let us not belabor its many offenses. It’s just hard to imagine anyone past age 16 conceiving this ad or believing it would be a good way to represent the company when it’s the only major player in the category. (There’s a particularly funny take-down here.)
The big question is: how does something like this happen?
I can only offer conjecture — but it’s conjecture based on a few facts.
Samsung is the type of company that partners with a number of agencies to produce various marketing materials. I use the word “partner” loosely, as Samsung-sized companies tend to treat agencies more like vendors than true partners. Their marketing executives tend to guide agencies with a firm hand.
As contrast, note that Apple (at least in Steve Jobs’ time) chose one agency and treated it as a real partner. Yes, there were spirited debates — but the agencies’ opinions, advice and creative abilities were appreciated.
The relatively consistent advertising quality you’ve seen from Apple over the years is the result of this partnership. The erratic quality of Samsung’s advertising is the result of a more complicated approach with heavy-handed oversight.
Clearly there are some talented creative people sprinkled about in the Samsung empire. Love it or hate it, the campaign in which Samsung poked fun at customers lining up at the Apple Store had strategy and attitude going for it. The expensive long-format spots on the Super Bowl and Oscars took creative risks and got noticed.
But it seems that every time Samsung starts to look like it’s becoming a smart marketer, it shoots itself in the foot.
Witness the ridiculous, sexist Broadway-style event it held at Radio City Music Hall to launch the Galaxy S4 smartphone. And now look (if you dare) at the monstrosity at the top of this article.
Obviously, this new video was not created by the same crowd that made Samsung’s better ads. In fact, it looks like it was made by people with only a fleeting familiarity with good creative or good strategy. It feels like a translation of a bad idea originally conceived in another culture — which it very well may be.
Long ago, I considered taking a job with Samsung’s agency in the US. The deal breaker for me was the continued involvement of Samsung’s in-house agency in Seoul. I have no idea if that group still exists, but based on the look and feel of this Gear commercial — we can safely say that its spirit lives on.
It seems that Samsung has no one in a position of authority who appreciates the art of brand-building and the value of creative consistency. Unlike Apple, which puts care into both products and marketing, Samsung focuses heavily on product. Thus, its marketing has a self-destructive ebb and flow to it.
This is not to say that Samsung will soon implode. Many forces continue to push it forward. There’s just this gravitational pull that keeps holding it back.
That’s because when it comes to marketing — it just can’t stop itself from being Samsung.
Tags: samsung gear