Samsung brand strategy: ‘Change everything but your wife and children’


More and more when I have been with friends in recent times the phone they are pulling out of their pockets is not an iPhone but a Samsung Galaxy smart phone. And as it turns out Samsung is probably the only other company that can throw a product introduction and have people line up around a city block, as they did in New York City on March 14 for the launch of the Galaxy S4. Likewise the retail formats that Samsung are adopting have the same appealing presence that Apple stores have delivered us. They are doing a lot of things right. 

Bloomberg’s Businessweek ‘s Sam Grobat wrote a great piece on the 28th of March 2013 providing some insights into the business strategies that Samsung pursue to build their foothold in desirable market segments. It is compelling reading, but what I really loved is the manner in which the aspiration for a ‘new’ Samsung was launched back in 1993 by company Chairman Lee Kun Hee. According to Grobat, in order to see how his company was faring internationally, Lee embarked on a world tour in 1993. His findings were not encouraging: a visit in February to a Southern California electronics store revealed Sony and Panasonic TV’s in the front window and Samsung’s TV’s gathering dust on a low shelf down the back of the store.

By June, Lee had made it to Germany where he summoned all of Samsung’s executives—who numbered in the hundreds—to meet him there. On June 7 the chairman delivered a speech that lasted three days (that is some speech!). He laid out a plan to transform Samsung, then a second-tier TV manufacturer, into the biggest, most powerful electronics manufacturer on earth. It would require going from a high-volume, low-quality manufacturer to a high-quality one, even if that meant sacrificing sales. It would mean looking past the borders of South Korea and taking on the world. The event became known, formally, as the Frankfurt Declaration of 1993. The content of the Frankfurt Declaration is called New Management, its principles distilled into a 200-page book that’s distributed to all Samsung employees. In terms of a mandate for change, it does not get any better than what Lee decreed for his employees. “Change everything but your wife and children.”

One really does not know how many employees are still with their wife’s, but the change everything mantra has certainly taken hold in Samsung. It is a great case study.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

Image: People test out the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone during the its release in Times Square in New York. Photo: Bloomberg


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