‘The Next Big Thing’ vs. ‘The Laws of Physics’ – How Samsung won me over

The Samsung Galaxy: Samsung Galaxy: smartphone brand doubles UK market shareI had the luxury of a long break in December during which I went to a friend’s wedding in the Himalayan foothills.

When distracted by the stunning scenery, a light fingered passerby made away with my unattended purse. Luckily it had been emptied of passport and wallet the previous day, so the only real loss was my Smartphone. My pathway to friends, chronicler of past and diarist of the future, irreplaceable extension of my bionic existence – I was crushed. Well…briefly anyway.

Once I’d finished grieving for my lost photographs, the thought of upgrading to something newer and sexier became quite an exciting prospect. I had two weeks to decide and the phone shop advisor categorically told me there were only two choices worth considering – the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the iPhone 5. After doing the rounds of gadget comparison sites and getting fairly confused, I turned to the advertising for inspiration.

Apple has successfully developed an aura of minimalist hipster cool around their brand. Take the London Overground from Islington to Shoreditch to check out the cult first hand and get the full blast of iPhone/legwarmer/beard/Trilby chic.

The iPhone 5 ‘Laws of Physics’ campaign however, left me cold. One of the ads state “how can something get bigger (shows frontal view of screen), while also getting smaller (shows side view and it’s thinner than the 4s)”. Without much useful product feature improvement to go on, it made me wonder why there was so little of Apple’s cultural currency being leveraged in the advertising.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4IRsCjMqdI

Supposedly defying the laws of physics, while potentially fascinating from an academic standpoint, does not appeal to anyone at a motivational level. We are all driven by need states, so showing us how life will be better in some way – more street cred, better functionality, an app that writes home once a week pretending to be you…something, ANYTHING to spark interest should be fundamental.

On the other hand, Samsung have been incredibly clever in their advertising for the Galaxy S series. Rather than emulating Apple, they’ve taken every negative characteristic of its cult of personality and exaggerated it, thus differentiating from arty cool with modern prudence.

The Samsung ad is a below the belt but highly effective pot-shot at the practice of queuing for hours for the latest Apple offering. Meanwhile, wise, down to earth, but still trendy Samsung users cruise by touching phones and sharing playlists on their giant screens.

It is undeniably and ostentatiously smug, but judging by my violent glee (and the equally gleeful YouTube comments it received) it’s struck a chord and people seem to love that it takes no prisoners: 

“I could never own a Samsung. I’m creative”

“Dude, you’re a Barista”

Genius!

Why did I enjoy it so much? To explain that, first, I need to reveal a deep tension in my personal life…

I consider myself culturally enlightened – I write music, love Mark Rylance and always know what’s on at the Barbican. I might be PJ Harvey in my head but on the outside, I’m a very smiley, slightly homely-looking South Asian girl and sometimes find myself at the receiving end of a haughty stare beamed via non-corrective black rimmed glasses at a party. Having to prove my creative cred to a loafer clad fashion blogger is a real tension and it runs pretty deep.

Rejecting working hard to be part of a snooty club is motivated by the need for feeling powerful vs. a desire to belong – here lies the nub of the tension. It is the line between sour grapes and emancipation.

Samsung have played on this human tension, and turned it into a sharp, icy stake to the heart of pretentious behaviour. Their campaign is a fantastic example a solid fundamental human truth underpinning a creative strategy. The ‘Next Big thing is already here’ is truly a big idea because it:

1. Uses a compelling tension that is deep and widely felt i.e. railing against herd behaviour

2. Connects the Samsung brand to this tension in a credible way – as the voice of reason and a worthy innovator

3. Has clear motivational territory to underscore the creative brief – feeling in control, being an expert, staying playful

4. Has legs and is incredibly powerful if the brand continues to innovate

The overarching (or underpinning if you see it that way) moral of this story is that the creative development process could do worse than to think about people as people, rather than consumers. Getting to know someone goes beyond demographics. Reverse engineering your target’s life from brand positioning is not likely to be as powerful as building up from what really makes them tick.

Creative veteran Sue Little, Chief Executive at McCann Manchester, pointed out at a recent seminar (paraphrased slightly): People are smart, they see right through marketing – your intentions, ploys and desired outcomes – and sometimes, they allow it.

At Ipsos ASI, we believe starting with a fundamental tension in someone’s life, connecting your brand credibly and then telling a great story about it, is the right way to go about gaining that consent.

Samira Mohamed is Research Manager at Ipsos ASI.