Samsung is Stepping Into the Spotlight

Ben Bajarin / April 2nd, 2013

lights01(5).jpgSomething very interesting is happening and I will be very interested to see how it plays out. Samsung is stepping into the spotlight and arguably taking it from Apple. Apple for the past 10 years, or more, has been the unparalleled focus of the mainstream media and for good reason. In 2010 when I started helping on the business side of things at the tech blog SlashGear, I got to have great conversations with nearly all the major bloggers. Throughout my conversations with them one common thread emerged. Every site remarked about how writing about Apple was page view gold. And in a business where page views generate more advertising dollars, over-covering Apple from every angle was–and still is–a business strategy.

As of late, many of the same conversations I have had with media influences and editors is revealing a new thread. Writing about Samsung is now quickly also becoming page view gold. As you could see, there was more content than necessary leading up to the Galaxy S4 event and then even more harsh content and scrutiny of the event itself. Maybe Samsung is getting what they want by being in the spotlight but it comes with a price.

Being under the microscope and managing the burden that comes with it is something few companies have had to do. It is now one that Samsung must do. It will be fascinating to watch how their management handles it. The media and Wall St. can be extremely and almost universally unfair to companies in the spotlight and under the microscope. Being a leader almost always means you also get arrows in your back. I’m assuming Samsung was hoping to get more attention but I’m not sure they are fully ready for the hostility that comes with the spotlight.

Are They Ready For It?

This is the real question. Executives, folks in PR—both internal and the external firm—those in investor relations, board members, etc., will all learn the unique place of being in the spotlight. This may be particularly tough on the PR folks and those at the external agency. Those folks jobs are often judged on the quality of not just press coverage but quality press associated with the company or a product. When you are under the microscope it may often feel like everyone is out to get you and for a company that has never dealt with what seems like media hostility, it may be hard to handle.

Samsung is also an Asian company, and as is the case in Asian culture, often times criticism is taken very personally. Not taking extremely harsh criticism from Wall St. and the media personally is going to be a challenge for them.

Passion and Personal Computing

If Samsung does their job right with both their brand and their products, they will create a sense of passion around their brand. This is also something few companies in personal computing have accomplished. It is something that is necessary if you want to create a sustainable brand yielding loyal consumers. With it, however, comes the possibility of a polarizing effect. I can think of no more polarizing brand in computing than Apple and as we can see it yields loyalty but also hostility. Samsung may also be heading in that direction. If they are not careful they may create the astronomical expectations that can never me satisfied by the media.

Is it Good for Apple?

This is also a very interesting question. In my 13 years as an industry analyst I have observed how the media has covered Apple. There has been many positives but it led to a hype machine that got completely out of control. This led to the external reality distortion field which I have referred to as of late. Even though my sense is that the Apple hype machine has been lessened, and Samsung taking some of the spotlight may be part of that, it still seems as though nothing Apple does is good enough. Perhaps Samsung taking more of the spotlight will work more in Apple’s favor from a media standpoint than many think. Primarily because it will give the media another target other than Apple.

I actually believe this is good for Apple and having two companies compete for mindshare is actually very good for the industry. The media has an insatiable appetite but by them having more story lines than just Apple to focus on may help bring some needed balance.

The spotlight can only focus on a few but the fact that it is focusing on more than just one is a good thing. From what I can gather, managing being in the spotlight can be very rough. Apple has learned to manage it marvelously and we will now see if Samsung can.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • Rich

    How did Samsung get into the spotlight, and will they stay there?

    • benbajarin

      It is interesting because they have always been dominant in a number of categories just never personal computers, which I am including the phone in that statement. So because of the emotional element that comes with personal computing and brands associated, as well as the hot ticket media points I talked about, it brought them into the spotlight. They are also the only other company that Apple really focusing on marketing at a whole different level then the rest of the field. So the result is huge awareness and they have the products to back it up.

      Will they stay there? I think they will and they will be Apple’s biggest competition going forward. But I do think my point about how Asian management will take being in the harsh criticism that comes with the spotlight is going to be a very interesting one to watch. That point could make things play out a little differently and even perhaps make them gun shy if it gets too bad.

  • pawhite524

    I would have thought the issue of Samsung in the spotlight was already addressed in the Judge Koh’s Federal court last summer. For all of that company’s engineering and technical prowess the evidence of their extravagant copying of Apple was clear to me and most other observers. If Samsung receives the same level of scrutiny Apple has of late I don’t believe they will come out smelling like roses. Can’t wait for the innuendo and un-fact checked stories from the WSJ, NYT, and Forbes about Samsung to be written, that seems to be the price of the spotlight, too.

  • David Olson

    Ben, I agree with your insights and analysis here. Having followed the news of Samsung-Apple conflict, I view Samsung products differently now. When shopping for a clothes washer I looked for signs of copying and corner cutting. Previously, I believe I would have bought the Samsung washer and dryer. But I asked the sales person who shared that they were not as nice as the one that looked very similar to their offerings. I went with the other brand. If Samsung does the limelight as they did their PR for the Galaxy 4 phone, people outside of the tech community will begin to make similar negative associations as I did.

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