Samsung's New Galaxy S4 Ad Strategy Is Same as the Old Strategy: Hammer Apple

While More Subtle than the S3 Fanboy Campaign, Samsung's New Campaign Still Pits Apple as its Chief Rival

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Samsung's is not finished comparing the Galaxy with Apple's iPhone.

As the the debut ad for Samsung's latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, shows, the company is still acting like a challenger brand when it comes to its competition with Apple for the high-end smartphone market.

The ad -- first shown last Thursday during an episode of "Conan" -- depicts various grad party attendees using S4s much to iPhone owners' amazement. When a young woman uses the S4's near field communication (NFC) feature to share photos with a friend, for instance, an older woman next to her attempts to do the same with her iPhone. The younger woman quickly points out that iPhones lack the touch-sharing functionality, which causes the older woman's husband to remark, "Some smartphones are smarter than other smartphones."

Samsung wants consumers to believe that the S4 is the young, tech-savvy, early adopter's smartphone, but continuing the iPhone criticism tactic initiated in the company's Galaxy S3 ad campaign raises questions about how effective Samsung been at combating the iPhone's perception as the premier smartphone on the market. Many predicted that Samsung would move away from that strategy with the S4 and begin to focus on telling its own product story a la Apple. Evidently, Samsung does not view that as an immediately effective message.

Continuing to market against the iPhone also reinforces the perception that Samsung smartphones are not for the tech elite, but for people buying their first smartphone. That is, Samsung has not poached away Apple loyalists, but taken advantage of the widespread adoption of smartphones by convincing those new to the market to go Samsung.

The strategy has been effective. Samsung increased its share of fourth quarter smartphone sales from 21% to 30% from 2011 to 2012. Apple's share decreased from 41% to 39% over the same time period.

Samsung is diverting from Apple with this new ad in that it is increasingly marketing its smartphones not as stand alone products, but the focal point for an ecosystem of consumer electronics products. One of the grads at the party uses his phone to change TV channel as the party host watches in awe.

Part of that "smartphone as Trojan Horse" strategy includes Samsung installing Experience Shops in more than 1,400 Best Buy locations last month. Consultants at the Experience Shops have been demonstrating to consumers how Samsung's slew of mobile products and accessories -- smartphones, tablets, laptops and Internet-enabled cameras -- work together.

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