3 Marketing lessons from Samsung’s vulnerability

Recently, news are coming in that Samsung has lost its market leader position in Smartphone markets in India and China, two of its biggest markets. What makes Samsung’s position in mobile handset market so vulnerable?

In India, MicroMax and in China, Xiaomi are said to have displaced the market leader. MicroMax and Xiaomi are claimed to be beating Samsung at its own game in which it decimated Nokia few years back.

In the utterly crowded and commoditized mobile handset market, such drastic changes are not surprising, unless you are an Apple. Samsung may dispute the claim or defend its territory for a while, but not for long. Sooner than later it will have to give in to some competition, which may emerge and ascend rapidly because it has built its brand on the foundation of vulnerability.

What are the marketing lessons one can learn from Samsung’s shaky brand position? Here are three :

1) No single target customer segment
You can own  Samsung phone for as low as Rs 1200 or as high as about Rs.50,000. That is a full spectrum of mobile phone users. So, who is a Samsung target customer? Almost everybody.

Because of this large base, Samsung can be attacked by any Tom, Dick, Harry and their cousins. And it will have to spend time, money and energy in defending each of these territories.

Marketing lesson-1 :
Have a clear target customer segment and protect it firmly. Sharper the target, the safer. Don’t spread yourself too thin so that you can be attacked by anyone.

2) No clear positioning in customer’s mind
If you own an iPhone, that says something about you. You understand or appreciate quality, innovation and uniqueness. Also, you can afford a high-end phone.
If you own a Samsung? It does not say anything about your taste. You could as well own any other similar ‘looking’ phone.

Marketing lesson-2 :
Have a distinct positioning for your brand. Stand for something. Own a distinct position in customer’s mind. Don’t focus on marketshare alone. Focus on mind share instead. And drive that home in the customer’s mind.

3) No uniqueness
Apple has its unique hardware and its unique software. This makes switching difficult for an iPhone user because he gets used to some unique features, services and Apps which other mobile Operating Systems can’t offer. An Android based Samsung can be seamlessly switched to another Android phone without any significant loss of data or user experience.

Marketing lesson-3:
Be unique. Give something that others can’t copy easily. Don’t become easily replaceable.

Marketing is telling believable stories

Some films succeed. Many others fail. Films are well-crafted stories. The films with stories which connect with a large number of people, succeed. The ones which tell a bad story or tell a story badly, fail.

Stories help us live a different life, even though temporarily. Seth Godin says marketing is creating and selling stories. Successful marketing means building successful stories.

Stories that connect with people.
Stories that let them live a different life, even though temporarily.
Stories that help people to lie to themselves.

In the absence of some other productive occupation, we love telling lies to ourselves. It is a distraction.  But a motivating one.

When a cream brand tells a girl that 4 out of 5 girls get softer skin after applying our cream, the girl dreams of being one of those 4. She goes and buys that cream.

Finally, after weeks of religious application of the cream with no significant improvements, the truth emerges and she lands among those 5th girls who did NOT get softer skin. This happens with 80% of the girls who buy that story of softer skin and get disappointed. By the time the futility of the promises and claims made by the company dawns upon a now-wiser girl, she gets hooked to another “New Improved” cream of yet another brand and buys another dream, believing and telling to herself the lie the brand’s advertisement said.

Thankfully for the older brand,  younger sister or cousin of this now-wiser girl grows up with dreams in her eyes and goes and buys that same cream with the dreams of softer skin.

This continues. Just like we sometimes watch the same movie or read the same book again and again even though we know everything about it, we keep buying the things we don’t need because of the lure of the story.

This is the success of marketing. Creating “New & Improved” stories and selling them.
Repeatedly.
Profitably.

Microsoft, Windows 8 can do much better than this…

These days, there is an active TVC campaign of Windows 8 going on the air.

A family is negotiating a job for their son in Dubai with an agent for few lakh rupees when a wise lady enters the scene with a laptop, opens a job site (monsters.com?) and shows there are a plethora of jobs available as shown on the web site, and her price for the service is only ‘Two Gulab Jamuns’.

There was a similar campaign earlier showing a range of options available on a matrimonial site (bharatmatrimony.com?) while searching a groom for a daughter, making the humble Panditji look irrelevant and helpless in the face of the new ‘competition’.

Ok. These are well produced TVCs. But what about the brand communication? Is Windows 8 positioning its relevance on making job agents or Panditjis irrelevant? We all know, it can do much better.

I think the TVC is so completely irrelevant to the product, that with this same communication, the very same TVCs could have been shown to promote the laptop brand or job site (or the matrimonial site). Without ANY change in the TVC. The irrelevance of the story and the communication to express what brand Windows 8 has to offer is starkly obvious.

A job site or a matrimonial site can be opened on any machine running any OS or any smartphone running any OS. What is so great about Windows 8 being able to open monsters.com web site? Which other OS can’t do that utterly routine task?

Where is the differentiation? Does the TVC say about Windows 8 being different in any way? No.

And, which segment is Microsoft targeting? It seems Microsoft is targeting the ones who are looking for jobs, brides or grooms for their children, i.e. the retired people. May be they are trying to demonstrate the ease of use through the  ‘touch’ feature, but the communication is not matching or hitting that objective either. Moreover, Apple and its clones have made ‘touch’ a given and not an ‘exclusive’ feature, which can be a worthy point of differentiation.

Also, the offer of EMIs seems inappropriate. Does brand Windows 8 have to sell on price and EMIs? Is it that bad? I don’t think so.  I am sure Windows 8 has a lot of exclusive features and benefits which can be talked about.

I think either the company and the agency are up to some very highly strategic communication agenda or they have completely missed the point. To me, the latter seems more likely.

Sometimes, even the giants miss smaller, simpler points. And they end up selling jobs, brides and grooms for selling their Operating Systems. Bad barter…

Hota hai…!