The world got an interesting glimpse into Samsung's marketing playbook this week when CMO Todd Pendleton testified at the patent trial against Apple. This New York Times story relates his version of the steps the company took to build its brand and take the leadership position in mobile handsets.
According to the piece, when Pendleton started with Samsung in 2011, he did not even know they made smartphones; Pendleton, and many others associated the Korean manufacturer with TVs and other electronics. Here's an excerpt:
At the time, Samsung was still number 4 in the market... He decided to build a brand around "relentless innovation" by shipping the best hardware... before anyone else... Samsung began a marketing campaign called The Next Big Thing, which aggressively mocked the iPhone while promoting Samsung devices as the best on the market.
The tactics apparently, worked as Samsung Galaxy S III sales trumped the iPhone's in 2012.
He was asked whether Samsung "plotted to surpass Apple." Pendleton replied "Our goals at Samsung are always to be No. 1... to beat everyone."
Dumb question, great answer.
It is hard to know what to think about all this. How far should a company go to protect its intellectual property? And what constitutes IP?
You can find good arguments on all sides of the debate. On the one hand, I can sympathize with Apple, as their lunch was eaten by Microsoft and the PC clone industry years ago. Microsoft Windows used some of the same UI innovations as the Mac OS, which came before it. Now, in the post-PC smartphone era, Apple clearly wants to turn back the tide of the threat posed by Google's Android OS - and, let's face it, Android does cop many of the nice UI features of iOS.
But the Mac OS was influenced by work that came before it, at Xerox PARC. And why is Apple suing Samsung, and not Google? It seems to be part of a calculated legal strategy, and not just some noble effort. The Samsung CMO testified at a trial in which the company is suing Apple for patent infringement, go figure.
You really need a playbook to follow all this, and it is not clear how consumers will benefit from the costly legal jousting. Hasn't the Droid horse already left the barn? Before the lawsuits are settled, we will be ready for the next wave of innovation, and another round of lawsuits five years down the road, I suppose.
At any rate, the Samsung branding playbook demonstrates the power of great marketing. They prevailed against one of the worlds' most loved products and stellar brands.