Samsung Was Wrong to Copy One of Apple's Biggest Mistakes


Samsung loves to copy Apple . Regardless of your legal opinion of whether or not the South Korean conglomerate has infringed on the Mac maker's intellectual property, there's abundant anecdotal evidence of Sammy's admiration that even the casual observer can appreciate. You'd think that this emulation would primarily be limited to Apple's achievements, but it turns out that Samsung has just duplicated one of Apple's biggest mistakes.

After 1984 comes...
Way back in 1985, Apple was still enjoying the glow if its famous "1984" Macintosh Super Bowl commercial that's widely considered one of the best and most effective ads of all time. Apple followed up with an ad that's just as universally accepted as one of its biggest flops. It also aired during the Super Bowl and was titled "Lemmings." It showed a line of blindfolded businessmen walking mindlessly off of a cliff, then turned around to pitch the Macintosh Office computer that was geared toward business users.

The ad was a dismal failure, in part because it alienated the very consumers that the company was hoping to win over. Customers, enterprise or otherwise, generally aren't keen on switching to the product you're pitching immediately after you insult them.

Let's copy that, too
Yet, that's exactly what Samsung's aggressive new "The Next Big Thing is Already Here" ad campaign does, openly mocking the lines that Apple product launches generate.

Samsung spends in inordinate amount of money on advertising and marketing, estimated to top even Coca Cola's advertising expenses. Coca Cola spent just over $1 billion on advertising last quarter, or 8% of revenue, and ads are a core part of its business considering it has sold the same core product for decades. Samsung still manages to spend more. Thanks to all those ad dollars, you've probably seen this ad by now:

Apple's frenemy is committing the same mistake it made nearly three decades ago: Samsung's making fun of the same people that it wants to switch and become its customers. The Apple customers that Samsung is effectively calling sheep probably aren't going to go out and buy a Galaxy S3 after being portrayed as brainless for their loyalty.

Besides, every company on earth, regardless of industry, would relish having customers line up for eight hours just to buy products, so there's an undertone of jealousy in Samsung's attacks.

Didn't work that time
Investors and consumers may remember when Motorola actually took a jab at Apple last year when it launched its XOOM tablet, one of the first tablets to run Google Android. Motorola's ad also ran during the Super Bowl and was dubbed "Empower the People."

This commercial was less aggressive, but was clearly poking fun at Apple's 1984 commercial (the main character is reading George Orwell's novel on his XOOM), even calling out the irony in how Apple's products share a certain uniformity nowadays. Apple users are represented with hoodies and white ear buds, but the XOOM user stands apart and woos a female companion.

Lessons learned?
Apple's "Lemmings" was an abject failure, unsurprising considering the morbid nature of the ad, and the Macintosh Office never even shipped. Looking at Motorola's figures, it would seem that its XOOM ad also proved unsuccessful, as its tablet shipments struggled and failed to make a dent in soaring iPad unit sales.


Source: SEC filings.

Since then, Google has closed its acquisition of Motorola and decided to stop disclosing unit sales figures, which is rather frustrating for investors interested in knowing how well Motorola's actual business operations are doing in terms of unit volumes.

The Galaxy S3 is a worthy contender in its own right. In the third quarter, Samsung's Galaxy S3 unit shipments were estimated at 18 million, making it the top smartphone in the world. Samsung began its campaign right around the same time that the iPhone 5 launched at the end of the quarter. If the device begins to see unit sales decline, that'd likely have more to do with the iPhone 5's debut than the alienating ad.

It's a risky campaign, but the fourth quarter numbers will show if it ends up paying off. Sammy should have just copied the good stuff.

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