Digital Conference

Samsung USA CMO Marc Mathieu Shares His 'Secret Sauce'

Ad Age Digital Conference Speaker Offers a Preview of What He'll Be Talking About in April

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Samsung CMO Marc Mathieu
Samsung CMO Marc Mathieu Credit: Samsung

With so many different products under his purview -- ranging from TVs to smartphones to kitchen appliances -- Samsung USA CMO Marc Mathieu wears many hats. The former Unilever and Coke marketing exec is in charge of all product marketing efforts at Samsung in the U.S.

Mr. Mathieu's appointment in June 2015 came at an interesting time for Samsung. His arrival coincided with the opening of the brand's Global Marketing Center of Excellence in New York. In February, the center became home to Samsung 837, a 40,000-square-foot store in Manhattan's Meatpacking District that has no physical inventory to sell consumers.

Here, Mr. Mathieu offers a preview of some of what he'll be discussing when he takes the stage in April at the 10th annual Ad Age Digital Conference in New York. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Ad Age: How did you come up with the idea for the new "Why?" campaign for the Samsung Galaxy S7?

Mr. Mathieu: That is part of the secret sauce. From the beginning we said we want to build a brand that talks about all the great and cool features the product has. At the same time, the campaign has to connect deeply and emotionally into people's everyday lives.

How do we bring to life a phone at the center of an ecosystem? That is another core element.

I had a saying at Unilever which was "Marketing used to be about creating a myth and selling it." Now, it is about finding the truth and sharing it. Being transparent and focusing on telling a story in a very human, humorous and honest way that people can engage with is critical.

Ad Age: How did you go about picking the celebrities for the "Why?" spot?

Mr. Mathieu: That is also part of the secret sauce.

One of the things Samsung has been doing is building its brand over time. Building a great product and sometimes going from pop culture and then going to celebrities to build awareness for a brand.

We wanted to find a way to tap into celebrities who would not take themselves too seriously and bring their own personal touch of humor. And would also be very authentic in the way it comes across.

Ad Age: Samsung 837 is a 40,000-square-foot store with no inventory to sell customers. What kind of return does that give Samsung?

Mr. Mathieu: It used to be you created an ad on TV to convince people to come to your store and buy your product. That path to purchase is no longer true. It's completely different now.

Interactions with people where we give them a chance to connect with our brands on their terms, not ours, will fundamentally create a certain experience that will connect them to the brand physically and emotionally, which will eventually influence their purchase decision.

Ad Age: What has surprised you with the Samsung Global Marketing Center of Excellence? What sort of innovation have you seen come out of it?

Mr. Mathieu: A lot of the center is on the three floors on top of Samsung 837. What we are seeing is an active test for marketers to see the way that our brands show up. It is a live manifestation in Samsung 837 and it is actually truly connecting and engaging with Samsung owners or owners-to-be. A lot of it is thinking what the next situation of the marketing playbook will be and how we should start a new campaign and why.

Ad Age: What do you expect of VR (which figures prominently in the "Why?" campaign)?

Mr. Mathieu: For centuries we thought about content as if it was locked in a box. Now, suddenly with VR, we can give people the chance to experience content in the same way we live every day. I think it is an opportunity to really bring to people a set of new experiences, whether it is gaming or the ability to engage people to discover the world and themselves in a whole new way.

Ad Age: What can we expect from Samsung in terms of marketing VR down the road?

Mr. Mathieu: One of the things we have at Samsung 837 are chairs that move when people are experiencing VR. That also gives people the chance to watch the way people are experiencing VR. The duality between experiencing VR and watching people experience VR is a very interesting marketing platform.

Ad Age: What are some of the obstacles when it comes to marketing all sorts of different products from TVs to kitchen appliances?

Mr. Mathieu: I don't see it as an obstacle. I look at it as an opportunity.

I really feel we are only at the beginning of connecting all the dots. And I think once you are able to make all those products connect, all of this becomes a unique opportunity to show the benefits of a connected life. I'm sure we will look back in the future and ask, "How did we live without all those different products connected together?" I really believe this is a huge opportunity and we are at the beginning of it.

Editor's note: Hear more from Marc Mathieu in person during the Ad Age Digital Conference, April 5-6 in New York City. Details here.

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