Samsung, headquartered in South Korea, is a huge multinational company made up of numerous subsidiaries and affiliates. It started as a trading company but over the years, it has diversified into food processing, textiles, construction, shipbuilding, insurance, securities, retail and, of course, electronics, semiconductors, and mobile devices. Founded in 1938, many Westerners view it as a huge foreign company, stuck in the ‘old way’ of doing business and as somewhat mysterious. Samsung is working hard on changing that image through its public appearances and TV commercials. For example, a few weeks ago at Samsung’s Developer Conference in San Francisco, the presenters were young, funny, full of smiles and spoke impeccable English – in other words, the crowd could relate to them. It was not the usual portrayal of an elderly father on stage with a thick accent.
Much of this new attitude is attributed to DJ Koh (Koh Dong Jin), who, since late last year, leads Samsung's global smartphone business. He is a software and services guy, and that is what Samsung believes will be the catalyst for future smartphone growth. Koh is responsible for developing Samsung Pay and earlier, the security framework for Samsung Knox. When he took over, he brought a younger attitude, less formal and “get-shit-done” approach that trickles down through the company and hopefully, starts to change its culture. Samsung is counting on Pio Schunker and Marc Mathieu, the company’s two top phone marketing executives, to take what Koh has started into actual marketing content.
Schunker and Mathieu are working closely with Samsung’s top executives – in fact, they are amazed at how closely senior management is involved with everything. This way decisions can be made quickly with no red tape to go through. Schunker said in an interview that the first thing senior management asked them was “how do we make this great brand,” which is exactly within the name, Samsung. “Sam” means three and in Asian culture, three is the most powerful number in existence. “Sung” means stars and the notion of shining brightly forever. Samsung defined their enemy of progress as complacency and have the philosophy that “if you don’t move forwards you’re moving backwards.”
In their interview, Schunker and Mathieu talked about the importance of Virtual Reality (VR) and the need to start talking about the phone and what it can connect to – this is where the Gear 360 camera and Gear VR came into play. They said the temptation is to “go after gamers,” but in reality, there is no scale to that by itself. You need to think in terms of everyday usages, such as movies, entertainment, and travel – things that people will respond to and help build your user base. Another point they touched on was how Samsung is changing their brand to include not only the elite but also a brand that everybody can enjoy. Pio Schunker said, “What we are trying to achieve is a brand that feels human, that there's a warmth in the interaction, a degree of playfulness.” Samsung is starting to show this playfulness in their ads – no longer are they mentioning Apple, just concentrating on things like VR that Apple has yet to take advantage. In March, Samsung won back first place from Apple in worldwide smartphone sales. Maybe it is because of the iPhone slump, Samsung’s push into VR, the new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, Koh’s new vibe in leadership – or all of the above that is causing Samsung to rebrand itself.