TECH TALK: Samsung's Arno Lenior

Samsung's Australian chief marketing officer Arno Lenior talks about the future of its experience stores and why Samsung likes to appear as a challenger brand when it's a clear leader in many fields.

Talking after his presentation at the Assocation for Data Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) conference in Sydney, Samsung Electronics' Australian chief marketing officer Arno Lenior talks to Business Spectator about the future of the company's local brand experience retail stores, how it markets itself as both a global and a local entity; and why Samsung likes to appear as a challenger brand when it's a clear leader in many fields. 

Harrison Polites: Thank you for your time, Arno. First question, Samsung is a vast company manufacturing everything from white goods though to smartphones. Given its prominence, what is Samsung's marketing focus in Australia and how does this market differ from other markets around the globe? 

Arno Lenior: I can't speak for other markets because my focus is Australia. And in Australia we are Samsung Electronics, the company I represent. Within that we have everything from smartphones, TV’s, mobile products and tablets, notebooks, PC’s, home appliances, and we are selling all of those vigorously. We are marketing them all to the same extent. There's not one particular focus. We take a portfolio view over our marketing. We aim to be the leader in each of those categories. 

HP: How much of a focus is the smartphone market of you guys in Australia, compared to other markets? 

AL: In 2012 Samsung was the number one selling smartphone brand globally. We continue to be the number one smartphone brand in the world. Clearly, it’s a big market. And we're a relatively large player in the market so it's very important to us. 

HP: Samsung opened its first experience shop last year here in Sydney. From what I can gather, you've opened another one in Melbourne as well. What's the aim and the future of this strategy? 

AL: The aim of having a brand experience store is for people to come in and experience our products. We've opened one in Sydney and another one in Melbourne. While we’re investigating other opportunities across the country, I can’t really discuss our business strategy at this stage. It’s really an opportunity for consumers to come in and look at our products, experience them and have our stores  act as a showcase in terms of what the brand experience is. 

HP: Is the strategy moving away from having separate stores and moving into having employees within other stores, as you mentioned in the presentation? 

AL: There's a huge focus from our perspective to provide the best experience for consumers. And in this market we're working very closely with a range partners across telco, across consumer electronics to enhance that experience. Will we put employees in every store? No. Will we work with our partners to see whether that's appropriate? Absolutely. 

So, when we do planning with them, we sit down and discuss this. It's one of things we look at. The biggest concern for us is making sure that our products are showcased in the best possible way. 

HP: According to Asymco, Samsung spends $4 billion on advertising annually. You're one of the biggest advertisers in the world. Can give some insight into how much Samsung spends in Australia on marketing and where it stacks up compared to the $4 billion seen for the globe. 

AL: While I can’t go into specifics, what I can say is that we're spending what we think is an  appropriate amount for this market place which is a very competitive one, one of the most competitive in the world. 

Advertising is definitely one measure for us and an important mechanism for gauging consumer interest in the brand. I would consider the brand retail and experience stores another measure, not to mention the other integrated marketing, PR, social and experiential activity we do as well.  

What we're trying to do here is to ensure the message gets across in the right way, but also that consumers get to experience our brand in unique ways through activations like the recent Samsung Stadium app. The app gave people in Australia and around the world the opportunity to listen to Roy and HG commentating on the Wallabies test games, gain access to exclusive content, as well as interact with fellow rugby fans.

HP: How does you company operate in terms of your silos. I'm interested in this in regards to your marketing. You've had some awesome ads in the US, and yet they're not as commonly seen in Australia unless you look at them through a US channel or you go onto a US website. So how does your silo system work with marketing? 

AL: Well, I look after all  marketing here in Australia right across the entire business portfolio, which means we don’t have the challenges so much of working in silos and we collaborate on a regular basis with our global counterparts. So, for instance, content that's been well received in America is definitely finding eyeballs here in Australia. So, our strategy in that regard would be to make sure that we get it to as many eyeballs digitally as possible. Would we put all that content on TV? If it’s appropriate, we may. So we look at a lot of global work that's been done, and we create a lot of our own work, and we basically assess whether it’s right for the market. And if it’s right for the market, then we'll do the appropriate thing and launch it locally. 

HP: You had a positive response from the audience [during your ADMA presentation] though, over a couple of those ads. Would that indicate that it still might be relevant for this market even though it is US focused? 

AL: Which ad are you talking about specifically? 

HP: The Apple ad.

AL: The Samsung global ‘The Next Big Thing’ advertisements are actually over a year old now, and at the time we were actually quite active with it in Australia. We did quite a lot with it in Australia, mostly digitally. 

The other one that I just showed, that Usher ad which has had over 50 million people watch the ad in two months and a significant amount of eyeballs have seen that in Australia, through a digital amplification program that we've had locally. 

HP:  What are the key challenges of being a global marketer with a wide range of products? 

AL: Companies that don’t evolve, invest in their products to respond to changing customer needs and demands (and take notice of the market) won’t survive. At Samsung we invest heavily in innovation as part of our business strategy because we put our customers’ evolving needs first. If you look at the growth in mobile as an example, the level of innovation is huge because things are moving so fast. A few years ago a household or a small business might have two or three computers and one mobile device. Now it’s completely reversed and it’s now all about mobile. Challenges include marketing across different geographies, cultures and languages but maintaining brand integrity.     

I think we're unique in the fact that we have one brand across all of our products. That's absolutely a benefit to us. So, if I look at other companies, like P&G or Unilever, they don't have that as their master-brand, they choose to use a sub-brand for specific products. So for us, it’s actually arguably easier to build affinity with the Samsung master-brand, which basically stands for great innovation. 

AL: In terms of how we have been doing this in Australia, we specifically look at leveraging our local programs as much as possible. So, sponsorships like the Wallabies for instance is a Samsung-branded exercise. Additionally, Samsung is the principal partner of the Sydney Opera House where we recently lit up the sails through a consumer competition for people to have their images showcased on the iconic sails. We look at sponsorships from a holistic perspective and try and build affinity with Samsung as a brand. 

HP: And just finally, you mentioned in your talk that you like to appear as a challenger brand, when in a lot of ways you actually are a leader. Why is that?  

AL: I think that it’s a mindset. It's about making sure that we don't fall into a state of complacency. We're always trying to break new barriers, whether that be on a product perspective or a marketing perspective. So we're always trying to make sure that we're first, or that we're unique. That's a perpetual mindset for Samsung. We want the consumer to see us as leaders and to make sure that as a company we’re seen as breaking new ground, which I think we are.  

HP: Thank you for talking to Business Spectator. 

AL: Thank you.