When Arno Lenior joined Samsung as its chief marketer in Australia two years ago, the company was on the cusp of something big.
The success of the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets has meant Samsung has evolved, from being a brand you might experience in a room in your home, to something hundreds of millions of people carry with them as way of connecting to the world. It has consolidated its lead over Apple as the world’s leading maker of smartphones in the smartphone age.
This has also made Samsung’s marketing challenge more complex. There’s a relatively new, data-rich product line from the mobile devices that needs to be married with the more established businesses of the company like its TVs and fridges. Connecting the two in the minds of consumers is part of Lenior’s mission in Australia. “All the effort,” he says, “is absolutely on building this master brand and what it means to people.”
He has given interviews about campaigns and product lines before, but this is the first time he has agreed to talk about overall strategy, and his own approach to executing the Australian element of Samsung’s global plan. Managing complexity is a challenge for all businesses but especially so in consumer electronics, where the technology evolves rapidly, there are multiple categories, different competitors within those categories, consumers have ever-increasing choice, and media outlets cover it more exhaustively than any other business in the world.
I met him in the Sydney CBD the day after the launch of the Galaxy S5, which also incorporated the local launch of the company’s smartwatches. With this being a potentially decisive year in the smartphone wars, the phone was always going to make headlines, but Leniorsays they won’t be dwelling on it for long.
“Whilst right now we are really focused on the GS5, and the wearables, here in a few weeks’ time we’ll be talking about another category, and then another category,” he said.
“I think if I look back two years,” Lenior said, “our products have been always fantastic, but I think we’ve taken a much more people-centred view of our innovation, looking at things that really make a difference.” The present example is in the GS5, which fixes some of the key recurring problems people have with smartphones: the battery lasts longer, it’s waterproof, and dustproof – a feature proving especially popular in the Middle East in early sales. “We’re really looking at how our technology actually makes a difference, whether it’s in somebody’s hand, or in somebody’s home. How does it make their life better? How does it actually extend on the experiences that they can create themselves? So I think it’s changed a lot in the time I’ve been here. As a company we’ve really recognised the power of our brand and tried to make sure we articulate that internally and externally.”
The conversation around the brand is something Lenior monitors closely. How closely? Each morning, he gets a report on the social media conversation around the company and its products.
If you’ve been wondering how much attention senior marketing executives pay to the details of social media commentary around their brands, now you know. Or at least you do in Samsung’s case. Lenior repeatedly – insistently, even – returns to the importance of social as we talk.
Asked to identify the most important global trends that are affecting consumers at the moment, he points to three things: continuing premiumisation of consumer goods, personalisation of technology, and the rise of social media.
You’d “have to be blind Freddy”, he says, not to recognise “that people are communicating with each other in a completely new way. And the opportunities that brings forward are: how do you commercialise that? What does social commerce look like?”
He lists Groupon as an example of how social platforms can create business. “That’s social, inherently,” he says, “a great example of how groups of people are getting together and how they are able to influence entire markets.
“The service is the same. But they’ve been able to add in the layer of technology and the layer of social, and that’s given rise to an amazing business model.”
The Zero Moment Of Truth
Lenior won’t go into specifics on Samsung’s plans in this area, but the conversation turns to a marketing framework he’s applying to customer experience and branding that at least gives a hint of where some of the effort is focused.
The framework is known as the Zero Moment Of Truth, and it was developed by Google.
“It’s something that I’ve looked at and it really resonated with me,” Lenior said. “There’s a huge amount of research behind it, and it makes a lot of sense. So I’ve been able to take that, and just learn from it, and definitely there are other models that surround it – we really understand our consumer journey, and understand at a useful level, what does this model mean, and what does this model mean, and put them together.”
Zero Moment of Truth, abbreviated to Z-MOT, is an adaptation of a retail approach developed only a decade ago by Proctor & Gamble. It was originally the First Moment of Truth, a reference to the seven-second period that shoppers look at a product on a shelf and made the decision to buy, or move on.
The Z-MOT approach better captures the true behaviour of modern consumers. Lenior explains it’s “where people are researching, they’re investigating, they’re Googling, they’re on social – they’re getting information about products, they’re thinking about buying a TV.”
This is the point at which people now develop their understanding of brands, and their options for purchases. It’s acknowledges the giant shift in consumer behaviour that’s taken place in just a few short years: that when people are thinking about buying, they will often make a decision before going anywhere near a store.
The moment of truth in the sequence “is retail, and that last three or four feet at point of sale or point of purchase,” Lenior says. “And we’ve put a huge amount of effort in to making sure that we understand the shopper, we understand the consumer, but we also understand what is the proposition that we want to put in front of them to make sure they purchase our product over somebody else’s. And we track that. We work very closely with our operators, our partners, our channel partners, our retailers, so the Harvey Normans of the world and the Bing Lees, Good Guys – we work very closely with them because we also have to operate within their frameworks and make sure that we’re sympathetic to their operating environment.”
When he gets to talking about the last moment of truth, though, it’s clear from the barrage of questions it triggers for him about Samsung customers that he’s particularly hot on it.
You’ve bought. “And now you’ve taken it home, you’ve unpacked or unboxed,” he says. And then he’s off: “What’s that experience? And how are you feeling about that purchase? And who are you telling about that purchase? And what happens if something doesn’t go right? What’s the service experience around that? And who are you telling about that? What is the role of the brand in facilitating and being a utility in that experience? And then we get the loyalty loop – so people are really happy, and they continue to buy, or buy other categories – what are we doing to facilitate that?”
Samsung is so fanatical about capturing customer pain points that it’s building customer service into every one of its products. For example, a new Samsung air conditioner about to go on sale in Australia comes with an app for your Galaxy phone that allows you to control the unit remotely. That idea of controlling your home with a smartphone is nothing new, but folding in fanatical levels of tracking and customer service is. That’s what Samsung is doing with this product: it tells you the last time your air conditioner was serviced, gives you stats on how efficiently it’s working and how much it’s costing you, and connects you to a premium customer service channel if the AC unit goes wrong. That feature is also being rolled out to Samsung’s washing machines, too. Samsung is obsessed with keeping you happy.
The customer feedback from Australia, which has one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration in the world, is a market Samsung is watching especially closely for lessons that can be applied to elsewhere. Before Samsung launched the GS5 here it locked in the country’s two biggest banks – Westpac and CommBank – to have tap-and-pay systems ready to take to market, and teamed up with PayPal to ensure fingerprint payments would be also available in Australia.
“We’re the most advanced mobile payments country in the world,” Lenior said. “So what we’re doing with Tap ‘n’ Pay, what we’re doing with PayPal in terms of the fingerprint payment options, we’re at the very cutting edge, the bleeding edge, globally, on those sorts of technologies. So the world is looking at us going, how is that working? We’ve always been very high in terms of our technology adoption, but I think this is another further demonstration of how we’re just leading the way.”
And the sharing of Australian insights back to the global network is a constant stream of information. “We have continual tracking – consumer tracking, that is. So [we look at] how people are reacting not only to our technology but to our advertisements or our campaigns that are out there.” Again, he returns to social. “[We] track social all the time. That’s been a fantastic thing about [it] – it’s a consistent listening tool for us, so we do that continuously, locally and globally.”
The information sharing, of course, works both ways. With offices in 79 countries, Samsung’s data pool on consumer trends is vast; the campaigns, techniques and messaging that Lenior deploys in the Australian market are shaped by the insights from markets around the world.
“I’ve got a fantastic team,” Lenior says. “We’ve tried to get the very best people in the various disciplines, and collectively they bring a huge amount to our marketing effort.” But he is quick to add: “We borrow with pride. So if we see something fantastic in another market, we absolutely borrow with pride and to have a ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome, that’s something that I just won’t allow in our business, because we may not have all the answers. And that’s actually OK.”
There are some trends in Australia that are undoubted tailwinds for Samsung. The recent strength of the Australian dollar, the world-leading smartphone uptake, and more recently the resurgent property markets in Sydney and Melbourne, which mean people are decking out new units and houses, and here again Lenior and team bore into obsessive levels of detail.
“Clearly there’s mass urbanisation happening. So if you look at Sydney for instance, there are precincts which are springing up of highly dense apartment living. And we’ve had that for a while in Australia but it’s the pockets, on the way to the airport, like Green Square, Zetland area – there’s a big pocket there of just apartments going up everywhere. And absolutely that’s a clear opportunity for the industry. What we do with that is understand what’s the right mix of products that would be right for [that kind of development] because in some instances we’re getting purchases of those units who actually don’t require a kitchen, or they require a smaller washing machine because of the format of the home, and all of those sorts of things we look at very closely.”
This is all, really, a conversation about marketing in the era of big data. We’re entering an age when data insights from one set of products can help improve others. The full benefits of this are yet to be realised and Lenior predicts it will give rise to “a whole new sector of growth, and we probably don’t even know some of the things that are going to happen with that area now. The data that’s been able to be brought on a personal level on your own health and fitness, and how that’s going to be used in the future I think gives rise to amazing opportunities.”
Samsung has laid the groundwork for this new age, and it’s watching everything, from how you research, how you shop and how you use a gadget once you’ve bought it. Samsung has its eye on you, and that’s the secret sauce.
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