How To Ruin Your Brand: The Samsung Galaxy S4 Unpacking Event

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Samsung Galaxy S4 – announcement at NYC Radio City Music Hall
The GOP has done it, the major Banks, and now Samsung with its Galaxy S4 announcement – all have  tarnished if not badly their Brands. And done so almost in a blink of an eye given the months and years of assiduous work it takes to build up a Brand.

The following is the start of the Galaxy S4 announcement at Radio City Music Hall in New York:
Let me assure readers the presentation went downhill from here faster than a Kitzbuhel ski run.

Tech Commentator Robert Scoble on Google Plus summarized succinctly

Samsung really screwed up with its Galaxy S4 presentation. Whoever planned it should be fired.

So, here’s some rules:
1. Your presentation should NEVER take away from the product.
2. Your presentation should NEVER alienate some of your customers (the presentation was extremely sexist and tone deaf and that’s not me saying that, it was Leo Laporte. I agree, BTW).
3. You should make it easy to understand the next features. Samsung made it hard to really get what’s new here.

That said, the Galaxy S4 has a bigger screen, better specs, and does stuff like picture-in-picture cameras.

Man, am I happy I didn’t travel to see this. A total disaster in my view. Look at the tweet reactions!

Now lets put this in context. Samsung has worked very hard over the past 5 to 6 years to garner market credence and share from Apple’s iPhone and a whole bevy of Android smartphone suppliers. Starting with the Samsung SII of 3 years ago and then the SIII plus the Samsung Note in the past year and a half – and Samsung had done the impossible: outsold Apple iPhones in the US and Worldwide and arrived at the top of the heap in Android smartphone sales by a wide margin.

Samsung had promoted these smartphones with a series of TV and video commercials of subtle wit and puckishness. Thus the hideous disaster that was the Unpacking Presentation was totally unexpected. And it came at a time when Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones were gaining credence among the hardcore Apple and Google smartphone users who were tentatively looking elswhere – i.e. switching Brands. It is during this period that Samsung would want to project a savvy  and engaging presentation. Here is a sampling of the reaction from Twitter right after the presentation at #Samsungunpacked:
– Jeff Phillips: S4 looks nice, but I ought to get a discount for sitting through that presentation.
– Clifton: I feel very bad for any tech journalist in the audience who had to wait  and wade thru this…
– Nate Barr: Of all the things Samsung has “taken inspiration” from Apple, why couldn’t “classy product presentation” have been one? 😉
– Anthony Kershaw: #samsungunpacked cheesy scenarios. Samsung, don’t ever show those ‘cool’ ads again. And, no ragging on Apple
Here is some of the comments at the Engadget Live broadcast:
– Barterjustin: This event is terrible. Awkward and annoying
– Techguy22: Bad actors. and i thought twilight was bad. this presentation sucks
– Teknikal: Buying the phone but whoever was behind this unveiling travesty should be fired
– EDo411: I like them showing examples but surely it could have been a lot better than this cheese fest
– Boobsandbacon: Wow this event is beyond dumb
Let me assure readers the reactions were the same in the comments section at other live presentation broadcast such as CNET, theVerge, Yahoo, and UberGizmo. Why offend your customers and make them feel – “whoa now, if  Samsung is  capable of staging such an awkward and cheesy presentation what about the validity of their feature claims or the confidence I can put in their customer service ?”

Predilection for Ruining Brands

“A brand is a promise about who you are and what benefits you deliver that gets reinforced every time people come in contact with any facet of you or your business.Branding is the process of building a positive collection of perceptions in your customer’s mind.”  – Bill Chiaravalle and Barbara Findlay Schenk

Samsung’s Unpacking Presentation missed Branding’s basics by literally insulting time after time the audience’s intelligence and sense of civility. But Samsung is not alone. The GOP for the past 4years has waged a campaign to insult and disenfranchise 47% or more of the US population. Any individual who might draw upon any government supports or aid is in danger of being labelled a moocher. However,  special dispensations are granted, of course, to banks and corporations who have taken literally $trillions in government aid and have not come close to “paying it all  back”. US Corporate Businesses are doing their “We Are World Leaders Brand” great harm as they sit on nearly $5tillion in cash[1/3 of the annual GDP], are getting the lowest cost of capital in decades yet many are demanding wage and benefit concessions from their workers and  subsidies or tax holidays from federal, state and local governments. Too many US Corporate Businesses are on the verge of losing  portions or all of the invaluable trust of their stakeholders – employees,  suppliers, shareholders and local communities.

How can so many “savvy players” go about tossing away hard earned Brand  Confidence in such a cavalier fashion? Obviously hubris is at play.  Here are 4 other factors worth considering.

1)Too  many organizations still do not appreciate the breadth, depth and memory of the Internet age. Breadth because there are literally tens of thousands of websites sniffing out the latest news and events for infotainment, investing, or sheer history/curiosity. Depth because these websites have a wealth of info on their special topics. These websites are aided and abated by tens of thousands of users who often vie to be the latest confidantes. The rumor mills are also fed by increasingly sophisticated hackers who add substantial depth and veracity to rumors.Finally, with the proliferation of massive and free Cloud Storage services along with ever more generous hosting service, the the Web’s memory – i.e.the ability to store and yet leave accessible enormous amounts of Web data has become nearly costless and limitless.

It is hard to imagine Samsung being unaware of this Web pervasiveness. Likewise just given the nature and breadth of cyberattacks upon them, banks and corporations must be reasonably in the know. However, the GOP famously in the last election  missed the Web data which helped  Nate Silver at the NYTimes get to so famously right in his predictions – 50 of 50 states in the 2012 Presidential election.

2)The process of branding is complex. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have written about the nature of judgements and decision making in various legal, social and economic settings. Kahneman won the Nobel prize for this work. Their conclusion is that utility, judgement, and decision making that go into decisions on “purchasing”  and brand formation are variable, not always rational and subject to unexpected reversals in behavior. Dan Ariely is offering a free college course on A Beginners Guide to Irrational behavior which explores how branding shortcuts can lead decision making astray. This would be recommended attendance for the Samsung marketing team.

3)Beyond being irrational at times, branding is about the cost of getting more information. Branding provides shortcuts to allow individuals and groups to bypass the time and costs of acquiring additional information which could reduce uncertainty and make the expected payoffs of different alternatives more clear. This is the second great trade-off that politicians and marketers exploit. For example, a sizable portion of the US population is unaware that for the past 30 years that US deficits have grown so large under Republican Presidents [they have been responsible  for more than 2/3rds of those deficits increases]. So 4 years after sposoring the largest increase in US deficits, the GOP is able to rely on limited information to disguise their shift to being deficit hawks after 30 years of profligate spending. Exploiting incomplete information is the name of the game on Madison Avenue and in politics.

Samsung executives are relying on the million or so influencers that watched the disastrous Unpacking Event a)to be too small a number to matter and b)not to tinge/color their reviews with any notes on the quality of the presentation. True to form, there is no mention of the presentation in reviews at the NYTimes, AllthingsD, Engadget, or theVerge in their day after reviews of the Galaxy S4.

4)Kahneman & Tversky revealed Branding decisions are reversible by unexpected conditions and external players. This reversibility is the stock in trade of PR handlers, marketers and politicians legions of expert handlers. What is remarkable is the relatively low cost for such reversals in Branding fortunes depending on prior status and actions taken. This is the gleaming Hope of the Big Banks which were so instrumental in bringing about the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and its continuing weak recovery. But a succession of Money Laundering, Libor Rate fixing, and Foreclosure misdeeds seems to indicate that the Big Banks will rely more on Too-Big-To-Fail and Too-Big-To-Jail than making any concessionary reforms to win over public trust.

Summary

So has Samsung weathered the storm of having  staged a disastrously offensive and awkward Unpacking Presentation? If you look at the influential technical reviewers, apparently so. So maybe 1/2 of the million or so viewers of the presentation will delay or just not buy the Galaxy S4. Let say a quarter of a million buyers pass on the Galaxy S4. At $600 per  Galaxy S4 that amounts to a  $150 million loss. Well maybe  even Samsung CEO J.K. Shin might want to consider the quality of his presentation next time.

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