From time to time, Samsung strikes advertising pay dirt. Earlier this year, the company had a pretty good spot when it stuck a Gear VR on an ostrich’s head. But it’s a tough gig — particularly when you’re dealing with the Note 8. While it’s true the company hasn’t had a difficult time bouncing back financially, the mere mention of the product results in a deluge of bad jokes — just check the comment section on any post we’ve written about it over the past year.
The first ad to address the issue did so indirectly. In a spot that debuted at Mobile World Congress in February, the company pushed to make its eight-point battery safety check sexy. Lots of cinematically lit shots were set to the pulsating funk tones of the O’Jays’ mid-70s Philly Soul classic, “Give The People What They Want.” They just want what we all do — phones that don’t blow up.
A couple of spots that debuted at this week’s Note 8 unveil struck a similarly odd tone. The company, understandably, is tired of the apology tours. Instead, the pieces focus on Note owners who are bummed that Samsung took their phones away from them. It starts with excited users rattling off cool features, and then there’s a tonal shift.
A man sitting in a car addresses the camera, “What can I say, y’all? Sad day,” like he’s discussing the death of a loved one. A voice-over states, “Rest in peace Galaxy Note 7,” followed by a bombardment of text, with phrases like “forgive and forget” and “write this off and focus on the Note 8.”
This was how Samsung kicked off this week’s event. The company had already exorcised the apologies from its system in previous press events, so this time, there was barely a mention of a recall and certainly no discussion of what led to it. Instead, the focus was on loyal users who weren’t so much disappointed in the company for the exploding batteries it took two recalls to extinguish as they were in the fact that they had to surrender their phones.
If nothing else, it’s a crash course in how to spin one of the largest consumer electronics PR disasters in recent memory. Whoever pieced together those clips could teach a master class to the White House’s revolving door of communications directors. But it ultimately felt a bit crass. Samsung had the perfect opportunity to close the book on the Note 7 saga, but instead the company used its shortcomings as a way of promoting how unflinchingly loyal its customer base is in the wake of a pretty massive fuck up.
It was a good opportunity to spend time discussing the new battery safety check it launched with the S8 and highlight some new features, including oversight by United Labs (UL). Samsung has put a lot of effort into getting the battery issue right this time around, and yesterday’s press conference would have been a great place to showcase it. Instead, the Note 8’s battery got a few seconds of stage time as the company raced to rattle out specs while the press conference drew to a close.
Samsung could have been more transparent about its processes and better addressed how it plans to avoid these issues moving forward. Because next time (if, God forbid, there is one), not even the diehards will be that forgiving.