Samsung will focus on digital and ‘experience’ marketing more than ever before when it launches the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ phones to the Asian market, Campaign Asia-Pacific learned at a preview of the new devices in Hong Kong.
The event, at which Samsung streamed in real-time a performance by the Hong Kong celebrity comedian Jan Lamb on Facebook Live, took place a day before the electronics brand reported its best quarterly profits since 2013, a result partly achieved thanks to better-than-expected pre-orders of the Galaxy S8.
“We want S8 to gain back the confidence of our customers,” said Paulona Cheung, head of marketing for Samsung Electronics in Hong Kong, acknowledging the reputation-damage the brand has suffered since the disastrous recalls of the faulty Note 7 devices last year.
“Definitely, safety is a concern for this device,” accepted Cheung. In an attempt to distance the S8 from its fire-prone predecessor, Samsung has been championing its new ‘8-Point Battery Safety Check’ at every opportunity, and Cheung said security has also been made a top priority. The new device, which is being marketed with the slogan “unbox your phone”, has an iris scanner and fingerprint authentication. The latter may be particularly relevant to Hong Kong shoppers using their phones for Samsung Pay: the brand’s new mobile payment service, which just became available in the city for the first time.
Such features mean Samsung is confident the S8 will restore consumer favour in the region, said Cheung. “Everyone has been waiting for this phone for a long time, and everyone is so excited because there are no key flagship [launches from other brands] during this period. We have competitors in the market—but of course they are not as good as us in terms of the specifications.”
Even in China, where local manufactures such as Oppo and Vivo have been threatening Samsung’s market share, rivals are not a concern, according to Cheung. “Competitors in China are not a threat to us yet because we are targeting different segments. We are targeting premium customers who are looking for quality products so still we are the first.”
For all the slick marketing videos, these toys really need to be tried out to be understood—hence the new focus on hands-on access, said Cheung. “We are very focused on experience marketing this time. We will have some gadget studios. We want people to try the product before they buy.” These studios will be location at key chain shops and major shopping malls such as Hong Kong’s Festival Walk and World Trade Centre, she said.
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And while Samsung HQ in South Korea will be responsible for the “helicopter” marketing strategy in Asia, local markets will be given autonomy to tailor some of the details. Beyond Samsung Pay, said Cheung, Samsung customers in Hong Kong can expect to see regionalised features such as phone wallpapers by local artists and free movies.
Despite Samsung’s best efforts, a few well-publicised problems have cropped up with the new phones, which will not be available to pre-order in Hong Kong until May 10 but are already on shelves in other markets including the US.
Some users have complained of a ‘red-tint’ to screens, while SquareTrade, the American warranty provider service, said the phones “performed significantly worse than their predecessors” in the company’s latest breakability test, and are “extremely susceptible to cracking.”
Questioned about these concerns, Cheung said of the red tint: “We noted that actually the consumers can turn the red tint off by themselves and we are launching another software upgrade to fix the problem that will be coming soon. So we don’t see it as a big problem.”
And the highly smashable screens? “I never heard about that,” Cheung said. That said, Samsung has introduced a special offer of one-year of accidental screen damage coverage for new Galaxy S8 owners. Time will tell whether the showiest new feature of the S8, its larger-than-ever ‘Infinity’ screen, which allows images to creep over the edge of the device, actually makes it more prone to breakage.
Other new specifications include ‘Bixby’, Samsung’s virtual voice assistant, which can identify objects and landmarks around the user when the phone is pointed at them; and the phone is also compatible with Samsung's Gear VR headset and the Gear 360 camera and video recorder.