Samsung Electronics, based in South Korea, has been the world’s largest technology company by revenue since overtaking Hewlett-Packard in 2009. Samsung opened its first manufacturing facility in China in 1992 after China and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in August of that year. Like many multinational companies, Samsung’s focus shifted quickly from leveraging China solely as a production base, to selling directly to Chinese consumers. Two decades later, Samsung has experienced a great deal of success in China, with its total sales there growing 32% year-over-year to 9.5 billion dollars in 2011.
Despite Samsung’s success in China, its mobile phone business faces intense competition. With the fastest growing number of new activations, China is expected to overtake the U.S. in 2012 as the world’s largest smartphone market. Samsung competes at the high-end with the likes of Apple’s iPhone and at the lower-end with local giants like ZTE and Huawei (for more about ZTE and Huawei, see Making the Connection by David Wolf).
Samsung decided to use short films to connect Chinese consumers with its mobile phones as part of a digital marketing campaign in 2010. It sponsored a range of original films and posted them on major Chinese web portals and video websites including Sina, Ku6, Tudou and Youku. Samsung titled the first series of films “Four Nights of Strange Tales” (四夜奇谭). Unlike the cases of Nike and Johnny Walker, Samsung used films to tell stories in which the actors visibly used its products, like its Galaxy smartphone.
The film series was directed by an award-winning director from Hong Kong and featured a combination of well-known actors and actresses from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Samsung took full advantage of their established fan bases by publishing film-related interviews and features to promote further viewings and discussion on major social network websites like Sina Weibo (microblog site).
Samsung’s short film series “Four Nights of Strange Tales” achieved tremendous success by attracting over 210 million views in less than two months. According to the latest data, Samsung now controls over 24% of market share in China, in contrast to Apple, the fifth largest vendor with just over 7% market share. While there are multiple other factors that contributed to this result, no one would deny that its unique marketing strategy significantly extended Samsung’s influence and increased its brand loyalty.
The China Observer View:
We are all accustomed to viewing product placement in movies and television shows. However, what is unique about the Samsung campaign is that the videos were designed around the products themselves, rather than merely placed in an existing story. In addition to effectively creating a compelling story to draw viewer interest, Samsung also did an excellent job choosing the right demographic of actors and actresses. Since they were the targeted end consumers themselves it allowed the actors to engage in meaningful dialogue with consumers online through social networks and other web portals popular among Chinese youth.