Samsung was also the first to promote a
new line of HDTVs as “LED HDTVs.” LED,
which stands for “light-emitting diode,” refers
to the light source used in LCD TVs; traditionally LCD TVs used fluorescent tubes to
illuminate the screen. By switching to LEDs,
Samsung and others were able to create
HDTVs that improved contrast and rendered
colors more faithfully.
But Samsung hit upon the very clever
marketing idea of calling this new variant of
LCD TV an “LED TV.” The implication: This
was a newer technology different from what
was already in the marketplace. In fact, only
the light source was different. Today, the
company sells 9 million TVs of all types in
the U.S. and Canada.
The company also heavily promoted its
line of so-called Smart TVs, models that allow
consumers to connect to the Internet and
stream content from Netflix, Hulu, BBC and
many other program providers. While its
competitors also offer Internet-connected
models, and devices such as Apple TV and the
Roku box can also stream Internet programming, Samsung has worked to create an interface that simplifies the accessibility of these
apps and let consumers easily download additional app functionality, just as they would
with a smartphone.
“This is our seventh generation of Smart
TVs,” Baxter says. “We started with a feed of
USA Today, and then moved on to Yahoo!
widgets, and now to our own operating system. Today, over 60 percent of consumers
Offering consumers choices
Even with the great success of its LED
TVs, the company never abandoned other
technologies. As Gagnon notes, Samsung
continues to make LCD TVs and still sells
plasma sets, even though that market has also
declined. If another plasma manufacturer falters, Samsung will be there to pick up the sales
slack, no matter how small. “They’re always
competitive in all markets,” Gagnon says.
Where Apple makes a few products and
works to perfect often a single model of a
device, Samsung has taken the opposite tack,
flooding the TV, smartphone and tablet market
with multiple designs, sizes and functionalities.
Take a look at Samsung’s website page
featuring HDTVs and you’ll see scores of
models, each of which comes in a variety of
sizes. It offers four smartphones and four tablets, each in three screen sizes, and recently
began marketing its Galaxy Gear, a smart
watch that syncs to a Galaxy phone and lets
users check their email, text and run apps
from their wrists.
Reinventing the wheel
When Steve Jobs introduced the first
iPhone in 2007, he famously decried the then-popular use of a stylus to control a handheld
device. “Who wants a stylus? You have to get
them [out] and put them away and you lose
them. Yuck!” he said.
That may make for a good YouTube
video, but the sentiment is not one to which
Samsung subscribes. The company’s Note
tablet models include a special pen that
enhances the ability to write and draw. It’s not
done just for convenience, but because a stylus can completely alter the purpose and
functionality of the device by allowing users
to do much more precise work than can be
done with fat fingers.
“Tablets have been used to consume con-
tent,” Baxter says. “With our Note tablet, you
can now create content.”
“Samsung has an extraordinary brand
reach,” notes Lindsey Turrentine, editor in
chief of CNET, the online tech reviews and
news website. “They created a smartphone for
every possible use and a wide variety of mar-
kets. And the marketing of their handsets has
raised the visibility of their brand.”
As the company gained success with its
televisions and handsets, it garnered brand recognition and brand trust, allowing it to enter
another market ripe for transformation: home
appliances. “There was a great opportunity to
inject energy into this segment,” Baxter says.
To distinguish its refrigerators, the company concentrated on fit and finish, interior
LED lighting and storage flexibility. The company introduced other innovations, such as a
carbonated-water dispenser in addition to
ice-making capability. Now you can get still or
These product innovations look to be paying off. “Samsung has moved beyond the basic
box. They’re not just satisfied looking at a category, but at improving that category,” says
Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, Consumer Reports
deputy content editor for home and appliances.
“Their fridges have done very well in our tests.”
Of course, the higher a company rides,
the greater the distance it has to fall. Founded
in 1938 in Seoul as a trading company, and
now employing more than 270,000 people,
“Samsung drives people really hard. In Korea,
to work for Samsung is to work for the best.
They have this work ethic that we used to
have,” says Chris Chinnock, president of
Insight Media, a market research firm.
Next: the connected life
Today, the company is focusing on what
many in consumer electronics see as the Next
Big Thing: the connected life.
With consumers loaded down with connectable electronic devices, companies such
as Samsung and its competitors are trying to
figure out how to allow consumers to seamlessly and intelligently connect all of them so
that, for example, you can begin watching a
TV show at home and continue it in the back
seat of a car, on your smartphone or in a hotel
room. Or you can monitor what’s in your
fridge and automatically create a shopping list
that appears on your tablet.
“A consumer may not understand the
notion of a connected refrigerator,” Baxter
says, “but if we ask them if they would find it
valuable to know what’s in their fridge, to
know automatically when food expires, to be
presented with menu options related to the
food they have, that makes sense. So we need
to change that dialogue.
“Are our products simple enough to use
easily? We know we have work to do, and we
always will. We have to continually make
things easier, to make it easier for consumers
to navigate and discover great new content.”
While nothing is forever, Samsung
appears to be on a successful course that
could let it beat the odds. C
Author and freelance writer Eric Taub has
covered consumer technology for The New
York Times and other publications.
BUILDING A BRAND
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 31
n Develops wireless
a small, multi-
n Develops the
first-ever speech-recognition phone.
n Takes No. 1
spot in U.S. cell-phone market.
n Achieves No. 1
worldwide market-share position for
TVs for the ninth
quarter in a row.
n Reaches No. 1
in the U.S. digital
TV market for
the fourth consecutive year.
n Introduces Galaxy
Tab to U.S. market.
n Launches OMNIA 7,
the first Windows
Phone 7 smartphone.
n Launches world’s first
3D home theater.
n Launches the world’s
first full HD 3D
n Releases the
85-inch UHD TV.
n Releases Galaxy SIII.
n Announces Galaxy
n Releases Galaxy
n Introduces Smart
n Debuts Galaxy
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