Samsung Galaxy S7 Campaign – When reassuring brand ads get it wrong

brand messaging

Unbelievable Brand Messaging.

It’s a Sunday night at our place and the new Samsung ad comes-onto the TV, kicking off with the statement: “At Samsung, safety has always been our priority”. It’s not often an ad is met with the instant derision to the extent this one was.

Before Samsung’s Galaxy S7 began exploding in their customers hands and the brand’s equity began imploding at the same rate, ‘safety’ had never been a concept associated by the market with the smart phone category. So why would Samsung run a global campaign that leads with the ‘safety’ message?

There are a number of head scratching parts to this puzzle that must have been the result of much careful consideration by Samsung and their brand advisors.

01. Where was the apology to their legion of customers and brand fans? No doubt about it – product failures and recalls are about as tough as it gets for brands and their reputation. For those brands who have built years of trust with their customers (think Toyota) it is possible to steer through and eventually come out the other side without too much long term damage. But the approach you take as the manager of the brand can have a significant impact on how long the recovery is and how well you come through the other side.

Brand relationships are like any other kind of relationship – a fact some brand managers seem to miss. And the first rule of relationships; if you stuff-up, own it and apologize – openly, honestly and freely.

02. Why lead with “At Samsung, safety has always been our priority”? In a category where ‘safety’ has never been an issue with consumers, leading a global campaign with this statement is questionable. I assume Samsung are hoping that the re-assurance of this statement will be the overwhelming communication of the campaign. However, the statement acts in the opposite manner, highlighting that safety was only an issue at Samsung.

03. Further, by stating that “safety has always been our priority” Samsung are asking us to ignore that they have the worst safety record of any brand in the category. If safety has always been a priority, how is it that their phones started exploding when no one elses did? When brands make these statements that fly in the face of broad consumer beliefs they damage trust and their reputation further.

04. Finishing the ad with the line “Innovation is our legacy” feels a little like not learning the lesson from the S7 issues. At the point of the ad where the message should be; “trust us, we’re going to make sure we get this right”, Samsung hits us with something more like; “and wait ’til we tell you about all this other cool stuff we’re working on”. Given the sensitivity around the S7 safety issues, it begs the question; shouldn’t they be more focused right now on getting the basics right that innovating the future?

The days of consumers believing everything brands tell them are long gone. Brands need to enter their customer relationships with the honesty and integrity we expect of person-to-person relationships.

I have no doubt Samsung are doing everything in their power to fix the issues with the galaxy S7 – including a recall that has seen them recover 96% of phones sold. I’m also certain they’re working night and day to make their phones the safest in the market for the future. Perhaps a campaign that swallowed their pride, humbly admitting they got the S7 wrong and telling us how that was driving them to be better than they have ever been across every aspect of their business might have been more believable. Humility and honesty would more effectively underpin Samsung’s strategy for battling the headwinds of brand distrust they are currently facing.

Dave Ansett
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more at…
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