2012 Marketers of the Year Shortlist: Samsung Canada
November 13, 2012 | Russ Martin | Comments
It’s time to look at the shortlist for Marketer of the Year, which appears in Marketing’s Nov. 19 issue. We’ll be featuring each one online as a lead-up to our January 2013 issue, where you’ll find out which marketer will reign supreme.
Samsung unleashed a social media dragon and started positioning itself as a lifestyle brand, which resulted in a brand bounce by year’s end.
On Sept. 21 Andrew Barrett waved one hand from his perch on top of a Samsung-branded double-decker bus. His other hand gripped the Olympic torch.
As Samsung Canada’s vice-president of marketing, Barrett was taking part in Toronto’s Canadian Olympic Heroes Parade, the final activation by Samsung Canada for the brand’s global sponsorship of the London Games. It came on the heels of a national TV buy, a PR campaign and a social media initiative that sent five Canadian brand ambassadors to London to digitally document the games for their personal blogs and the brand’s Facebook page.
The local Olympic campaign was one of a series of cross-platform, cross-category marketing initiatives Samsung Canada rolled out in 2012. After joining Samsung in September 2011, Barrett quickly started testing how well traditional, digital and PR efforts worked for the brand.
“We didn’t want to place all of our money in one big bet,” says Barrett. “We had to try a lot of different things to find out what was going to be a hit, then we would blow that out in 2013.”
It found some definite hits. Samsung Canada landed on the front page of the social news site Reddit after its community manager, Drew Bomhof of Cheil Canada, sent a drawing of a kangaroo on a unicycle to a fan who requested a phone in exchange for a drawing of a dragon. After the photo went viral, Samsung sent the fan a customized phone encased with the dragon drawing, landing it on Reddit again, as well as 15 million earned impressions in total and an invitation for Barrett to present a case study on the social hit at Samsung’s headquarters in Seoul.
Earlier this year Samsung also began positioning itself as a lifestyle brand more in line with the company’s U.S. advertising.
“Telling a story that people can relate to is a shift that’s been going on for the past two or three years on Samsung’s part,” says Amit Kaminer, an analyst with the telecom research and consulting firm SeaBoard Group.
Kaminer points to the tagline, “Design For Humans,” as an example of effective branding. “You can’t really be more straightforward in your marketing strategy than saying, ‘Designed by humans’ as opposed to ‘Designed for tech geeks.’”
“They’re on a roll,” adds Kaminer. “They are investing a lot of money in PR and marketing—more than we used to expect from them in the past.”
As Samsung Canada launched a series of PR initiatives this year, new PR agency North Strategic became a frontline partner, helping Barrett increase brand preference, one of the company’s key marketing challenges.
“All of our market data used to point out that our awareness vastly exceeded brand preference,” Barrett says. “People were discovering us at the retail level and buying us, but they weren’t going in wanting us. We had to change that.”
Some of those efforts are starting to pay off. Between January and September brand awareness for Samsung grew 13% in the mobile category, from 43% to 56%, according to Harris Research. Brand preference in that category also grew 5% in that time frame. In Canada’s home appliance sector, Samsung gained 40% in market share between 2011 and 2012. Barrett and Samsung Canada attribute these gains to the emotional appeal the brand has made to consumers. It shifted away from advertising product specs and used events to win over consumers face to face.
At the Tough Mudder endurance races in Whistler and Toronto, 13,000 people walked through a Samsung branded cleaning machine designed to showcase the PowerFoam technology of its laundry machines. In the mobile space, brand ambassadors spent the year touring malls across the country for retail events. Samsung also held events for its Galaxy III phone, seeding free phones with influencers in hopes of creating goodwill through social media and word-of-mouth. It’s at these events, Barrett says, the brand made a direct, impactful connection with consumers.
Connecting with consumers is why Barrett stepped off the Samsung bus at the end of the Olympic parade and made his way into the crowd. For two hours he let fans take pictures with the torch.
“I was going to stand there all day long,” says Barrett. “It was an unattainable thing—to see the enthusiasm and the magic that created; the emotional, positive feeling people felt when they held that torch.”
“That’s what our brand has to do. Every single day. One consumer at a time.”
To read more about the companies that made the Media Players of the Year and Marketers of the Year shortlists, check out Marketing’s Nov. 19 issue, which is on newsstands now.