Samsung Galaxy S3

“The Next Big Thing is Already Here”

I’m going to disclose upfront that Samsung’s Galaxy S III commercial is one of my all time favorites. I remember the first time I saw it. When it was over, I was standing saying to an empty room, “That was f***ing amazing”. No other ad has ever struck me in the way the Galaxy S III’s did. The thing is, the ad didn’t just generate a lot of buzz, or attack Apple, or promote the S III. In a minute in a half, it did all of that and so effectively that it contributed to record sales.

We could break the commercial down a few different ways, but I think it’s most important to look at what Samsung was doing with positioning. I’ll always believe that part of the reason the iPhone took off, at the expense of Blackberry, was that the Blackberry became seen as a product that kept people working while they were away from the office. The iPhone, on the other hand, offered people a chance to play while at work. Even as top dog in 2012, Apple was benefiting from the rebellious brand image it cultivated in the 80s. It was still seen as young, hip, and counter-culturish. In fact, at the time Apple’s commercials against Microsoft still promoted this idea.

But, of course, the iPhone was undoubtedly the category leader, and Apple’s omnipresence was becoming a liability to its rebel brand image. This point is exactly what Samsung wanted to attack, while simultaneously marking their technology as outdated.

To do that, Samsung shows long waiting lines at several locations painting the iPhone (appropriately) as mainstream. Sandisk tried to knock Apple off years before by exploiting the “iHerd” mentality. Samsung builds on that. In their commercial, the iPhone users are uninformed and their ranks are being filled by parents and grandparents. The iPhone fans are also talking about really insignificant changes as the big draw for the new release (which was credible, because the 5 didn’t offer a big leap from the 4S).

It takes 30 seconds before we even see the S III and even longer before they begin to talk about its advantages, but it’s done in a way that serves to pique our interest and sets up a comparison of the products. It becomes the S III that is creating buzz and is buzzworthy.  As I said, the ad is credible: it doesn’t attack the look of the iPhone, which has always been an advantage, for instance, but instead attacks its size, its market, and its technology. Then it wraps up with a summation that stresses all of these things “The Next Big Thing is Already Here”.

But the reason I love the ad is that Samsung doesn’t tell us all of this. It shows us. This is important because when people already have information they tend to hold on to it in the face of contradictions (you can look into cognitive dissonance or at Ries and Trout’s Positioning: The Battle for Mind for background on this bias). Rather than outright contradicting our brains, which would be met with cognitive resistance, the commercial forces us to compare the products and attempts to reframe how we think about them. It wants to be seen as cooler than the iPhone and technically superior. You’ll notice that it doesn’t compare its design or layout with the iPhone (which it would probably lose on), and it didn’t discuss its lower price point either because of the general belief that a higher price equates to cooler and technologically superior items. Instead of being a selling point, mentioning that could actually erode the S III’s position as the hip alternative to the iPhone.

Generally, it is unfortunately hard to track ads sales successes from outside of the product’s company. However, this ad was successful enough both the S III and S 4 set sales’ records after this campaign was launched.

If you want to read more case examples on successful competitor repositioning: Here’s an analysis of Tylenol’s brilliant campaign.

When you can’t talk about taste – An Analysis Of Coors Advertising

You know what you don’t see much of when you watch a Coors ad? Comments about taste. Advertisement after advertisement focuses on the bottle, or the temperature of the beer or, if they’re feeling really adventurous, on the bottle that can tell you the temperature of the beer.

Of course, there’s a reason Coors avoids talking about it. The product doesn’t taste very good. The beer snob in me loves to rip on Coors’ advertising, but the advertising analyst in me appreciates their strategy. While Coors’ doesn’t talk much about their taste they still try to convey the idea indirectly. For instance, their ads bring up Coors’ long history to imply expertise and give credence to their beers’ quality. In other ads they’ll mention that they use pure Rocky Mountain water, another mark meant to confer quality.

In fact, it’s only when you begin to place all the ads together that you see the tremendous gap in their advertising. But leaving that gap is an intelligent choice. Few people are going to be convinced that Coors is delicious (or, you know, even good). But, taste isn’t the only important aspect of beer to consumers. Beer is also viewed as something that refreshes and relaxes us, and Coors’ advertising targets those areas. What could be more refreshing than an ice cold beer? Well a Coors of course – it’s brewed with ice cold water from mountain snow and the bottles tell you when it’s ready! The can’s designed to get you refreshed quicker than the competition! 

More or less, Coors strategy is understandable. But, I also want to look at it with respect to rest of the market and build off the topic of repositioning discussed previously. Why hasn’t another huge brand like Budweiser attacked them? The big producers are being squeezed by craft breweries, so taking market share from each other may be the key to maintaining or growing revenue. Just from a game theory perspective you’d think it would make sense. When you think about it Budweiser, has a history just as rich as Coors’ and operates in a pretty similar fashion. It also has the same losing proposition against craft beers (even though for some reason that’s who they attacked in their super bowl ad). So why don’t they seize this opportunity to reposition Coors as a beer that needs gimmicks?

Well, Budweiser also may have qualms about focusing too much on taste, but at this point I see it almost as a binary choice for consumers between those brands – they aren’t competing against craft beers anymore. That battle was lost. Instead, they’re competing against each other. It would be pretty easy for Budweiser to run that kind of campaign.

Here’s a simple tagline:

“When you make good beer you don’t need to talk about the bottle it comes in.”

Edit: an astute user pointed out that Schlafly had an ad that made fun of bottle technology a few years ago. It’s not exactly what I’d advocate for, but it’s still worth a look.