Ever since 2009 — at least — Samsung has focused is strategy around one thing: Beating Apple.
We know this because the patent litigation between the two companies in a California federal court has revealed some of the Samsung’s internal strategy documents for the first time.
One of these documents, published by Re/code, literally has the heading, “BEAT APPLE,” in screaming capital letters.
Obviously, the two companies are competitors. That’s not news.
But it’s not until you see Samsung’s documents that you realise just how focused Samsung is on beating Apple. It’s almost enough to make you think the company might have an inferiority complex about Apple. (Except that in Q4 2013 Samsung did indeed “beat” Apple, shipping 86 million phone handsets to Apple’s 51 million, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.)
The most dramatic document comes from a 2011 strategy plan that Samsung distributed internally. The first page (after the cover) goes like this:
… HIGH-LEVEL INITIATIVES – BEAT APPLE
- Beating Apple is #1 Priority (everything must be context of beating Apple)
- Threat from Apple is extremely real and urgent (up t0 12.5M sell-in in 4Q)
- … Drive consumer pull: customers walk into stores asking for Samsung; understand why consumers buy Apple and develop countermeasures by carrier/retailer
Samsung’s obsession with beating Apple began shortly after Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, and those new “smartphones” began killing off the dumbphone or “feature phone” market.
In 2009, Samsung created this document to talk about that shift:
Nokia, of course, is now not much of a problem for either Samsung or Apple. But notice how Samsung realised — at still a very early stage in the smarpthone war — that “emotional” warmth of a smartphone interface was crucial in gaining and retaining customers.
Samsung asked its staff to consider the Samsung personality, versus rival companies’:
We’re guessing that the uptight dude in the white shirt is NOT where Samsung wanted its brand to be. Note how cool and relaxed the Apple character is. The rest of this document — you can download it all here — repeatedly talks about redesigning Samsung’s user interface’s to be more like Apple’s, at least in terms of friendliness.
Fast-forward two years, and Samsung’s war against Apple seems to have become more intense, according to the documents.
It’s 2011, and the company is planning for 2012:
US Federal District Court
Later that year, Samsung began running this famous — and famously effective — campaign, in which Apple fans lining up at a store for a product launch were portrayed as delusional losers:
Through 2012, the campaign against Apple took its toll. Eventually, the media began writing stories about how Apple seemed to have lost its mojo, and how cool and interesting Samsung’s products were becoming.