What can Samsung do to move forward?

Credit: Samsung

Reading the news on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has made me feel sorry for Samsung. My team specializes in working with challenger brands who are trying to beat the top industry competition, and Samsung has been the ultimate challenger brand taking on Apple with the Galaxy Note 7 launch. They had a strongly reviewed product that consumers seemed to love.

How quickly things can change.

To go from a product launch to the death of a product, within a few short months, is going to have lasting impacts that go way beyond the legacy of the Galaxy Note 7 product itself. It is going to have impacts on the Samsung brand equity and trust, and push the limits of how they handle customer relations.

A decade ago, I had a similar situation with an international sporting goods retailer launching in the United States. As way to “announce” their entry into the States, they manufactured an unique camping product, just in time for camping season. We had a highly innovative advertising campaign, combined with some really smart social media and strategic public relations, all directed to amplify the conversation around the product.

Let’s just say the whole launch quickly “went up in flames” when it came to light that the retailer sent the wrong product to the US stores. Turned out the product had different versions, for different companies, and the one they sent to the US was not fire code certified to US code standards.

So within three weeks of launching this amazing campaign and with product flying off the shelves, they had to immediately recall the product and our PR efforts went from talking about how great this product was to how to return the product before you or your family burned yourself by using this equipment

As an advertising executive, I’m not an expert in crisis PR but I do believe in managing strongly through a crisis. The advice I give to Samsung is that the advice I gave to my client 10 years ago. Here it is:

Be Accountable. NOW. - Most consumers are a forgiving lot. What they want is sincerity and an understanding that a mistake was made and that a plan is being put forth to fix it. Samsung leadership needs to own up to this mistake right now. They should send their executives on the road to meet with their channel partners and let them know they will make good on product returns, etc. This is what the partners want to hear.

Brand Reputation - I also would conduct a reputation campaign, direct to the public, letting them know they are sorry for the Galaxy Note 7, they will work with customers to address their issues, and that Samsung will continue to work hard to regain their trust and build products which will help today’s consumers.

Be Optimistic - I always believe that in crisis, opportunities can arise which will make you stronger over the long run. As a challenger agency ourselves, we live this every day. Two steps forward and one back is normal. How you carry yourself when you are going backwards will send a big message to your staff, your customers, and your investors.

What You Are Still Matters – The core of what made Samsung great -- its brand values, its brand truth, its mission, its people -- is still there. The brand has taken a hit, but if you believe in your core values, don’t abandon what got you here.

Circle The Wagons – A crisis brings a team together. Right now, Samsung is under siege by media, investors and their customers. The leadership at Samsung needs to remind their employees that they are needed - to help reignite market confidence by pressing forward, continuing the mission and demonstrating they can still deliver great products.

It’s a Brand New Day – Tomorrow brings new opportunities and this story will quickly disappear from the media. The effects will linger, but if Samsung owns up to the problem now, becomes proactive in addressing it, and keeps their staff moving forward, they will quickly regain their footing.

So what did my client do 10 years ago. Against our and their PR agencies counsel, he did none of the above. The impact? Their US customer base dwindled until they abandoned the market three years later. The worst part? During the week the crisis came to light, the US CEO went on vacation and left his staff to deal with the fallout! He was fired upon his return, but the damage was done.

Samsung has an opportunity to recover. The next few weeks will let the world know if they can.

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