Category Archives: Samsung

When the air itself becomes the gadget

One irony of our virtual-networked age is consumers are still gaga about gadgets. The Internet and apps may give us a million different ways to view weather forecasts on a screen, but as soon as Apple launches a thinner MacBook Pro Air with a black bezel, we’ll run to the mall.

The challenge of course is computer product designs are converging into flat panes, and eventually panes can only go so far. When screens and smartphones achieve the apex of glass, product differentiation will be difficult. Which is why devices soon will move out of solid shapes.

Two examples are laser keyboards and miniature projectors. The Cube Laser Virtual Keyboard is a $180 gizmo that beams glowing keys onto any flat surface, and somehow tracks the position of your fingers as you “click” on the flat QWERTY layout. You pair the device with an iPad and suddenly can type away like mad. (Flatscreen tablets suck at typing, yes.) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that within two years Apple and Samsung will add such laser-keyboard inputs into their tablets and phones. And for output, miniature projectors do exactly what they sound like — beam images from your phone and tablet onto the wall, so you can regale dinner companions with cat videos or hold an impromptu PowerPoint presentation with that executive you meet in the bathroom stall.

The third and most promising way devices will leave their hardware shells behind is virtual reality projections. Google announced this week it is expanding its Google Maps 3-D modeling (which renders photorealistic images of major metro buildings, streets, water, and flora from aerial imagery) to mobile phones. Now your handset can unveil a virtual earth tied to your location. If Google has figured out how to compress this powerful software into small handsets, the next step will be putting it inside your glasses, and soon you can overlay any fiction on the world you wish. Some clever hackers twisted the Google Project Glass teaser video to show how you could overlay the “Battlefield 5” game onto your neighborhood walk, if only you wore the right pair of virtual-reality spectacles.

Soon, keyboard inputs, video projections, and virtual reality will dance in the air around our fingers and eyeballs. The hunger to buy the next Apple product will fade, because slightly recast aluminum shells will become commoditized and a glass tab that transforms into a high-def screen is just another piece of glass. Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung, Dell, HP and other gadget manufacturers will need to spend more time thinking through virtual interfaces than concrete shells. Play it forward and you’ll see plenty of opportunity for garage startups to break into this new anti-product world. When the air itself becomes the gadget, the definition of product design will change.

Deconstructing Samsung vs. Apple

Funny ad. What’s going on here? Samsung is depositioning Apple.

The best book on marketing ever written was “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.” In it, Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote, “In our overcommunicated society, very little communication actually takes place. Rather, a company must create a ‘position’ in the prospect’s mind. A position that takes into consideration not only a company’s own strengths and weaknesses, but those of its competitors as well…”

More gems:

– “Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.”

– “To be successful today, you must touch base with reality. And the only reality that counts is what’s already in the prospect’s mind.”

– “The basic approach of positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.”

– “To cope with the product explosion, people have learned to rank products and brands in the mind. Perhaps this can best be visualized by imagining a series of ladders in the mind. On each step is a brand name.”

– “A competitor that wants to increase its share of business must either dislodge the brand above (a task that is usually impossible) or somehow relate its brand to the other company’s position.”

Nicely done, Samsung. This works much better than T-Mobile’s recent attacks on Apple (which just try to make Apple look dumb and shamelessly mirror the “I’m a Mac” campaign) because Samsung recognizes Apple has avid fans. You likely see yourself in the line outside the store. Samsung is almost saying, that’s cool, we get it, fanboys — but, just one thing, we’re also cool, perhaps cooler, with a bigger screen and a really new, unique product, so why not take a step over to our brand ladder? Hmm.

Positioning is an old strategy — Ries and Trout first wrote about it in 1972 — but that doesn’t mean human psychology has changed.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Now playing on your TV: Twitter and addressable ads

TVs are getting smarter, and while we’re cautious about dropping $2,000 on a big box that may have outdated technology in 2 years, we like the looks of Samsung’s new sets — which include widget apps that run things like Twitter. Samsung says that by summer it will include Netflix and Amazon apps as well, allowing users to download HD movies.

Cable companies aren’t taking this disintermediation lying down, though. Canoe, a venture of six of the largest U.S. cable operators, announced that within 6 weeks it will launch so-called “addressable advertising,” or the ability for one national advertiser to run different spots on TV sets at the same time in different parts of the country. The initial cut is a little rough — the first “Community Addressable Messaging” initiative would allow two creative 30-second spots to run, one reaching 42 million homes and the other 18 million. Eventually Canoe plans to enable customizable TV spots into every home that uses cable. There’s also a nice data collection play here, too — since Canoe could track exactly how many people see the different versions of each spot.

Which would be great, except some consumers may now skip cable to download films from Netflix or Amazon directly.

Samsung Instinct takes on iPhone. Video at 11.

Samsung began selling an iPhone competitor today in the U.S. complete with touchscreen, searchable voicemail, music, GPS … and with better-than-Apple features in maps, video capture, and the ability to watch live TV.

The real story here isn’t that Samsung’s Instinct is $70 cheaper for a few more functions. It’s video — the ability to capture moving images that is beginning to creep into every portable handset. As the world of web and telephony converge into small glass screens, video capture is the revolution, because it is an entirely new way for people to create and share content.

What happens when everyone can broadcast images from everywhere? And what happens to advertisers who count on intercepting and interrupting current video content, when they can no longer get in the way?

Samsung’s infinity screen: Maybe Ned Ludd had a point

This week it finally ended. No, not the battle between Hillary and Obama; just visual reality.

The image above is the latest tech toy profiled in Engadget: a Samsung 46-inch High Bright panel that has three unusual features: (1) it’s three times brighter than current LCD screens, (2) it’s so bright it’s visible outdoors, and (3) it was designed to be tiled — stacked side by side with invisible edges between the screens.

Get it? Suddenly people can build ultra-bright, ultra-high-res video walls of infinite height and width, laying visual bricks for walls or ceilings or sides of buildings with images brighter and more clear than reality. The costs to do this will be prohibitive in the next year or two, but soon, probably starting in Dubai and working back to the U.S. through Vegas, you won’t believe your eyes — because everything cast at you, inside and out, may not be worthy of belief.

Loyalty’s allure, or why you always park in the same spot

Look, we shouldn’t be seduced by brands, because after all we work in advertising and understand that brands are just designer coloring put on commodity products. But last night we were checking out reviews of digital cameras … and realized we were drawn to the Samsung, which looked a bit like the Samsung Blackjack smart phone on our desk, which had a similar red hue as the Samsung washing machine in our laundry room …

And we realized. Branding by Samsung got us.

How does this happen? Psychologists suggest there are three aspects of loyalty: affective (emotional attachment), continuance (the perceived cost of switching), and normative (the feeling of obligation). Marketing gurus such as Don Peppers explain there is a hierarchy of loyalty drivers: quality, then loyalty purchasing (the points you earn on your credit card), and ultimately personalization (which competitors find difficult to match). Marriage is the ultimate bond of loyalty, where psychological emotion (love) and sheer marketing convenience (she knows how you like coffee) make staying the rational choice.

But we think there is something more basic in loyal consumption, the same impulse that makes schoolkids take the same seat in class each day, or drives you to select the same parking spot. Humans are comfortable in ritual. In the transaction utility of a purchase (the juice you get by making a selection), picking something new yet familiar is reassuring. Apple is the brand that combines this best — you love the new iGadget, but you’re comforted by the past performance. Probably our ancestors who found safe shelter, such as a cave without snakes, and stayed loyal to it survived … while the brand promiscuous got eaten by a bear.

We can’t explain why our new phone matches the washing machine. Imagine that Samsung planning meeting — “Team, we’ll make washers that people buy every 11 years look just like our hot cell phones!” But dammit. With no emotional attachment, no switching costs, no obligation, no marriage vows, no points program … somehow brand loyalty just felt right.

My cell phone can now wash clothes

Talk about integrated design. We own a Samsung cell phone (third in cool, after iPhone, then Razr), and when our washing maching busted this summer with a cascading leak, we went to Lowes to see — guess what — a Samsung washing machine. Same color, same style, as the cell phone in our pocket.

Didn’t buy it. Sweetie had Consumer Reports in her pocket and the thing was one half-circle too short. But the temptation was real. “Hey, it’s red!” Interesting take in how integrated communications can build on each prior impression to drive up the transaction utility of a purchase impulse. As in, “Hey, it’s red!”