Something 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.