The Flaw in Samsung’s Anti-iPhone Commercial

Ben Bajarin / November 23rd, 2011

20111123-122023.jpg

I have to admit, the new Samsung commercial is one of the better commercials from a marketing standpoint for Android devices and Samsung in particular. If you haven’t seen it I suggest checking it out here.

What has been the criticism of many commercials pitching cell phones, Droid’s in particular, is how they don’t market any real value to the end consumer. Showing a gal fighting a robot, or a person hijacking a truck to steal a phone, doesn’t necessarily showcase to the end consumer why they should choose this product over another.

This latest Samsung commercial is highly entertaining and a welcomed departure from the usual commercials from iPhone competitors. That being said, although well intended, I think it misses the broader opportunity and is therefore fundamentally flawed.

As I processed this new Galaxy SII commercial, the flaw in their messaging hit me when a would be iPhone buyer in line at an Apple store said this:

“How will people know I upgraded, since the new one looks the same?”

Despite a range of other odd moments in the commercial, this one struck me because it leaves me thinking that Samsung is interested in iPhone converts, or at the very least early adopters. Granted, I am going to analyze this commercial more than most but it is still a valid observation.

What is flawed with this commercial is that it makes no sense to the non-techie consumer, the largest part of the market and the one Apple’s commercials are designed to speak communicate with. Samsung shouldn’t be concerned with consumers upgrading from the iPhone 4 to the 4S.

This fact hit me while I was laughing at the commercial, because I thought it was funny, and my wife said “I don’t get it.” She didn’t get it because, although she likes the iPhone, she is not an early adopter. That Samsung commercial in no way interested her in the Galaxy SII.

Samsung would be more wise to market to consumers whom are shopping for their first smartphone. This commercial, it appears, is not designed to go after that market. This is the marketing blunder I believe Samsung has made. Apple is out marketing to new consumers, mostly first time iPhone shoppers, and Samsung is focusing solely on existing hardcore Apple early adopters.

Apple marketing is chasing the future and Samsung marketing is stuck in the past.

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
  • Anonymous

    Samsung is just telling iPhone users: “You are sooo stupid and retard, but could you buy our Galaxy S phone? ” I won’t buy a mobile phone every year to change the form factor, I need a device that brings me satisfaction, a phone is not a car, you don’t have to lease it in order to have the next year model, Samsung has been trying to have Apple’s lines of users, stupid or not, this is something Samsung hasn’t worked out, this is a cultural and marketing strategy well crafted by Apple marketing minds.

  • I think actually might boost iPhone even further o_O

  • Dude, you’re a barista.

  • Wouter v. Dam

    I would say the advertisement of this high end Android smart phone is addressed squarely at early adopters among Android / non-Apple users, who are very likely to have heard of (and probably seen and used) the first generation Samsung Galaxy S, and who laugh (openly or silently) when they hear about the long waiting lines of Apple fans every time something new is released. Basically it is aimed at early adopters who think the whole ‘Apple thing’ is overrated or rubbish.

    As for the positioning of the product. The advertisement recalls the large screen that was one of the key features that got the original Galaxy S in the spotlight. It also mentions 4G, which to be honest I haven’t paid much attention to. I imagine the actual use of 4G is rather limited at the moment, much like the use of 3G was rather limited when that was first introduced. In any case, this advertisement actually gave the feature value to early adopters among Android users, simply by pointing out, in a fun manner, that the iPhone does not have it. And it isn’t as boring as ‘we have flash’, because 4G is cutting edge.

    And in general I would say this advertisement was not so much an attempt at a direct sell, but a memorable attempt to get prospective customers wondering about this new generation of the Galaxy S phone. If they are interested enough they’ll punch in a few keys on the keyboard and end up on the website that will tell them all they wish to know about the features of the Galaxy S II – or they can go to a mobile phone store and ask a salesperson about it.

    Finally, the implicit comparison to the iPhone is brilliant, because it avoids a comparison to another Android phone that actually competes within this target group, while positioning it as _the_ (superior) alternative to the iPhone.

  • Anonymous

    Yea, Samsung & others fall under the spell of ad agencies that pitch BIG IDEAS and big budgets and of coursem big fees for them and of course, the bottom line to beat your competitor is to MAKE A BETTER PRODUCT but when you cannot do that, you try and take some small idea and BLOW IT UP BIG. That’s the norm when your competition is also trying to same thing when there is really nothing better about your product – as with every Android phone in competition with another – or when a subcompact says they can can do a 8-pylon slalom faster than a BMW 325. That one sliver is true. But yea, Android sellers are particularly dumb – wasting HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS selling pointless features … aka: the ANDROID ad that uses lightning to designate the speed of 4G. NO one believes that 4G speed is as fast as lightning – NOT EVEN the dumbest person on Earth … same with the whole iphone thing – as if iphone users are so dumb they only a smart person at samsungs ad agency is smart enough to point this out when the bigger question is why their product is outsold by another phone for 20 months when their “flagship” product is out of fashion after a few months or that no one actaully asks if that’s the “new” Samsung X56414254 model. At east it’s better than their ripoff of the THINK DIFFERENT ad which is laughable with their line no one wants to be second best … um, that is pretty much Samsung motto.

    • DZaak

      Sorry mate. iPhone and iPod has been an inferior product to certain competitors for yeeeeaaars. Apple is the one who has chosen the big ideas and big budgets overm aking a better product… AND IT’S WORKED!

      By better product, I am talkign purely features and specs here. If you are to classify a “better product” as one with the best user experience, then I agree that Apply wins, hands down. But if you’re tech savvy enough to work through are different user experience in order to receive the best sound quality, or features such as flash on your web browser, then iPhone isn’t necessarily the best.

      All that means is that Apple are the smart ones who have made users look at it’s strengths and forget about its flaws. Now, no one even cares about that. iPhone is simply the most popular and a bandwagon worth jumping on to some, without even knowing its features.

  • yet another steve

    “I’m a Mac/PC” campaign made fun of the product. Samsung is actually making fun of the iPhone’s users. Which means they’ve already punted trying to gain them as customers. And as you say, for the non-owners or HTC owners… what have they really said. This is just flame bait for fanboys.

    But as a fanboy myself, Samsung who makes a whole lotta products outside besides phones (many of which I’ve bought… and I’ve bought their features phones as well) has put a bad taste in my mouth (hey they freaking insulted me) and probably permanently ended their brand in my mind.

    I guess you’ve gotta give them credit for balls… they’re all in in mobile. Burning their supplier business (by being at war with their largest customer), burning the brand for other products (there are a LOT of iphone users,) talking huge legal risks and winding up on the EU’s radar (trying to ban products using standards.)

  • instig8r

    Um, NO one who has an iPhone 4 can actually upgrade yet, unless they are interested in paying an early-out penalty. The 4S it directed at 3GS users (and new users, of course), but not iPhone 4 users. For Samsung to be targeting users who are not ready to buy a new phone yet is pretty astounding in the magnitude of its cluelessness.

    • AT&T typically lets customers with high-end accounts upgrade after a year, so many early iPhone 4 buyers are eligible.

    • Roger Dodger

      Not necessarily true. AT&T definitely allows for earlier upgrade pricing for customers who pay for more than the bare minimum.

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant insight! It’s a great commercial, but as you note, it really works only for those in the know! You’d have to know about iPhone queue madness, the lack of form factor change from 4 to 4S, etc. I thought it wonderfully fun, gently poking fun at Apple buyers, early adopters, iPhone madness, etc. It also highlights the bigger screen–and “4G”– though, what that means to the average consumer is up for grabs,

    My reaction was that it, ironically, promotes the iPhone itself. That’s because the ad, the style, and the wit feel like Apple’s.

    It was a tad misleading in that they show the Samsung screen with a colorful display and the iPhone on the unlock screen, making its picture much smaller. Sneaky Pete!

    Worse, I just watched the ad again… and they’re using the same old sexist ploy of a smiling woman with shades and long, wind-blown hair to show off the Samsung. Shame on them!

    In any event, the ad is clearly working. The blogosphere, especially Apple and iPhone-related, is lit up like the 4th of July. The ad has gone viral and this will help Samsung’s sales tremendously!

  • JB

    Your wife isn’t very bright. If she didn’t get the barista comment, then she really has no clue.

  • Anonymous

    It always comes to mind about a marketing rule that I read many years ago, that if you have to compare yourself to another product, you have already lost.

    Considering this was aimed at an american audience, I believe Samsung and other smart phone manufacturers are more concerned about the Apple iPhone now available on all major cellphone carriers and eating into their market shares.

  • Anonymous

    I could disagree. By attacking the apple cult in an attempt to make them look silly, a new smart phone customer may want what is “best” opposed to following the other sheep that are demonstrated in the commercial.

  • Pingback: Where are the fanboys? | T3 Thinks()

  • guest

    While trying to figure out what samsung meant by the statement above” how will people know I upgraded” you have to understand the mindset of the the typical iphone owner. They purchase it to feel superior than most because the newest of the apple devices (they believe) makes you better, smarter, and more creative than your peers. The way peers will know this is when they see them using the latest of the apple products. Users are borrowing apple’s identity. (These are the people that bought 100% into the Mac vs PC commercials) It is genius marketing. What the samsung commercial is showing is the mainstream mindset of typical iphone owners. The devices help them have an indentity. The commercial also affirm the droid users of what most of them believe… “my phone is better” shows that you don’t need an iphone to have the most advanced devices. They can also have freedom (not standing in line and letting apple control you).
    Also genius marketing. I believe samsung is going after the droid user. 50%marketshare instead of the iphone 28%marketshare. Samsung is trying to be the “it ” brand of the droid user. Ironic point of all is…inside the iphone is mostly a samsung products( ram, display, and chips). Minus the processor, IOS and logo… one could say that samsung has the best devices around the board.

  • guest

    While trying to figure out what samsung meant by the statement above” how will people know I upgraded” you have to understand the mindset of the the typical iphone owner. They purchase it to feel superior than most because the newest of the apple devices (they believe) makes you better, smarter, and more creative than your peers. The way peers will know this is when they see them using the latest of the apple products. Users are borrowing apple’s identity. (These are the people that bought 100% into the Mac vs PC commercials) It is genius marketing. What the samsung commercial is showing is the mainstream mindset of typical iphone owners. The devices help them have an indentity. The commercial also affirm the droid users of what most of them believe… “my phone is better” shows that you don’t need an iphone to have the most advanced devices. They can also have freedom (not standing in line and letting apple control you).
    Also genius marketing. I believe samsung is going after the droid user. 50%marketshare instead of the iphone 28%marketshare. Samsung is trying to be the “it ” brand of the droid user. Ironic point of all is…inside the iphone is mostly a samsung products( ram, display, and chips). Minus the processor, IOS and logo… one could say that samsung has the best devices around the board.

  • I think you’re kind of right, Samsung is after non-techie folk or Apple haters, looking for any reason to belittle Apple and promote another product. I think it probably sold a few folks who are on the fence – the ones who really think folks standing in long lines for a phone are silly. I’m one of the silly ones.

  • Rrusnak

    I feel that samsung is just after apple. They just want to make fun of them. Clearly they are upset over all of the crazy lawsuits. It seems they are just trying to make fun of the company and its users rather than trying to gain new users.

  • Ben,Ben,Ben,,,,, You mustn’t believe everything at face value. You have “Analyst” and “creative” in your bio but you make a fatal amateurish mistake. Let me tell you what, “How will people know I upgraded, since the new one looks the same?” ACTUALLY means. It means that we are mocking people who actually would believe such a thing and would actually think that that is what drives us to buy an iPhone. It is kins of like saying, “How will people know it’s me driving this porsche if I get the windows tinted?” Hmmm not sure that does justice but I think you get what I mean.

    • benbajarin

      Keep in mind this article was written last November. Second, my point, which still remains true, is that Samsung is incorrectly messaging features that the mass market could care less about. Their target with the message of this commercial, and messaging, which they have promptly dropped, is targeting the wrong segment of the market.

      Samsung will do well with intenders not early adopters and they have now begun embracing this strategy and are focused less on trying to get people to switch and more about trying to get new smartphone intenders.

      Also most don’t tint the front windows of their Porsche because they want to be seen driving such a prestigious car. Unless they are famous and have paparazzi chasing them of course.

Protected by Gerben Law