Why Samsung Is Creeping Me Out

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Samsung is a great company that makes great products. But its over-the-top Apple obsession and weird marketing ideas are really starting to creep me out.

The latest Samsung marketing weirdness: A TV commercial in Iceland for the Galaxy S4 appears to be a journey inside the corporate psyche of Samsung.

As far as I can tell, the main actor in the commercial represents Samsung, vexed and confused by an apple.

He’s trying to understand it. He’s trying to crack the code. He desperately wants what the apple’s got. But how? How?

Then, he has some kind of epiphany. The answer is: The Galaxy S4! And then the commercial has a psychotic break, some kind of nervous breakdown.

Surrounded by dancing burglars, Mr. Samsung dances awkwardly for a sheep and hallucinates more burglar dance routines before the Grand Finale: He bites with gusto into an apple and that sweet, sweet apple juice runs down his chin.

Am I reading too much into the ad to suggest that the burglars — i.e. stealing — was the key that unlocked the mysteries of the “apple” and that, now with the answer in hand, Samsung feels compelled to dance for the “sheep” — i.e., the iPhone fan base — and convince them to understand the epiphany?

If this isn’t what the symbolism represents, I’d be open to alternative interpretations. (Please comment below.)

It’s no mystery why Samsung might be freaked out by Apple. Samsung is probably Korea’s most prized and successful company. Yet a recent customer satisfaction survey of Korean consumers found that the iPhone has a better reputation in Korea.

Korean survey respondents said their phones were less likely to need repairs. And when they did need repairs, Apple fixed phones quicker.

And Samsung is struggling in other ways. For example, the company missed its quarterly earnings guidance yesterday. Even though Samsung reported billions of dollars in profit, investors are assuming the worst and running for the hills. (Ironically, this fact is one thing Samsung and Apple have in common.) The company also said sales of its Galaxy S4 fell below expectations.

This bad news follows a 17 percent drop in share price since June, generally caused by concern over mobile handset profits. (Some 70% of Samsung’s operating profits are from smartphone handsets.) The share drop represents a market value loss roughly equal to the total market cap of both Sony and LG.

But, hey, not to worry. According to a new report, everybody loves the Galaxy S4 best. And everybody hates the iPhone 5 most!

You know it’s true because the report comes to us from a company called We Are Social, which reportedly “scanned” Twitter, blogs and “forums” to analyze opinions about four major phones.

Never mind that We Are Social is a PR firm.

In their own words, We Are Social is:

“a new kind of agency that combines an innate understanding of social media with digital, PR, and marketing skills. We are entirely focused on innovative, creative and effective social media marketing and communications and we like to think we are getting rather good at it.”

They do marketing, as in they sell things. What are they selling here?

(UPDATE: I asked We Are Social directly if Samsung is behind their report and a spokesperson said that Samsung is not a client and did not influence their research.)

Would Samsung actually trick the public into thinking that people are happier with their products than they really are?

In fact, they’ve done it before.

Two years ago, writer Harry McCracken caught Samsung faking user testimonials. One pro-Samsung script (supposedly the words of a “user”) even came from a largely negative review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab written by McCracken himself.

Samsung ran a series of TV commercials mocking Apple fans waiting in line for the next iPhone. A pretty conventional corporate fantasy had the iPhone fans discovering a Samung user nearby, and seeing their delusions shattered by the mind-blowing features of whatever Galaxy was being advertised.

Then Samsung opened stores that look just like Apple retail stores.

Samsung has a history of Apple-obsessed ads, commercials and publicity stunts. Remember this ridiculous ad comparing the iPhone with the Galaxy S3?

One of the most bizarre examples of Samsung’s Apple obsession is when that company hired the same child actress Apple used in an iPhone 4S ad for their Galaxy tab commercial.

Samsung’s Apple obsession even surfaced in one of the patent lawsuits. Apple submitted into evidence a 132-page internal Samsung document called the “Relative Evaluation Report,” which was developed about three years ago.

The report basically shows well over 100 functions of the 2010 version of the iPhone, and in each case the authors of the report gushed over how wonderful the iPhone feature was and how much better it was than comparable Samsung features. It was the corporate equivalent of the cops breaking into a stalker suspects home and finding photos of the victim pasted all over the wall.

Samsung is the world’s leading maker of smartphones by unit sales. And some of their phones are really great.

I just wish they would act more like an industry leader and less like an obsessed stalker. Because they’re really creeping me out.

  • al256

    Ha! Finally after a year of studying Norwegian and Swedish and dabbling with Old Norse and Faroese, I can almost read that sentence and also understand the tagline.

  • markymac

    Excellent article!! Some would say that it’s Apple’s turn in the hot seat for poking fun at Microsoft all those years but with the success of that campaign Apple became strong enough to throw away the gimmicks and just focus on their great products.

    But it appears Samsung either doesn’t feel their strong enough to market without mocking or only proving that all of their ideas are juvenile and petty because they don’t feel their product can make it unless they find a way to belittle Apple.

    Then again, everyone else on the market is after Apple. Microsoft is desperate to push more Win8 so they resort to poking fun at the iPad.

    Clearly Apple has what all the competitors want but they’ll never have it nor achieve it.

  • iRichard

    Good summary! I had to watch it twice just to make sure it was not me who was halucinating… plus knowing some Islanders myself I know they speak all perfect English and can’t see why they should see this as a selling point for Samesung, let alone S4

  • CharilaosMulder

    There are ads only shamesung can produce. Samsung really acts like some child with huge personality issues.

  • xrohan

    This one’s really creepy too – It’s got an Indian actor singing gyrating to Gangnam Style. The lyrics describe Samsung S4’s features. I was scarred for life

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJs7N3aM75Y

  • SarcasticMisanthrope

    This reminded me of Mike Meyers on SNL back in the day doing his “Dieter: do you want to touch my monkey”? skits.

  • technochick

    Many marketing experts would say the moment you mention the competition you blew it. Focus on your own products and keep the other folks out of it.

    Why? Because folks all believe that marketing is half telling selective truths, especially when talking about the other players. So they will be moved to go look for the whole truth. Which might not make your products look as good as your ad did.

    At least when Apple did the PC v Mac they were using complaints you could find on any forum etc. so there was ‘truth’ in their claims. Most of the time. And they were well done and simple. Unlike this farce of an ad which was just weird

  • technochick

    Good summary! I had to watch it twice just to make sure it was not me who was halucinating… plus knowing some Islanders myself I know they speak all perfect English and can’t see why they should see this as a selling point for Samesung, let alone S4

    I do have to admit that language support is something lacking in several areas of Apple, particularly on their devices. It’s one of the things that makes me support a change in iOS to DLC/plug in support. First because it would allow them to add languages, keyboards, fonts etc without a full update to iOS. AND we can avoid bloating up our phones with packs we don’t need. Plus that kind of architecture could be used by apps for things like themes, templates, brushes etc. I’m hoping this new IAP with free pricing is a step in that direction.

    As well I’m hoping better language support comes to their video offerings. There is little reason why there can’t be subtitles, alt audio etc in movies etc off iTunes other than the studios wanting to force you to pay twice. Apple should nix that crap. As well as requiring 720p and filling in missing seasons etc.

  • netztickernews

    ohhhh i hate such anti-advertising stuff. i already read it here in a german blog:
    http://www.mac-blog-pro.de/samsung-vs-apple-und-wieder-ein-anti-iphone-werbespot/
    they say in my opinion correct: If you start to blame competitors products instead of tell the folk why your product is good, then you know how good the product is:-) they are right! If you have a good product, most of the customers will buy it, you dont need such commercials.

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Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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