Does Samsung Galaxy = Apple iPhone? Think Brand vs. Features

By Patrick Nycz

I love this Samsung ad. It is funny and cringe-worthy for us iPhone customers that underlines what we have been told these past few weeks: Samsung Galaxy = Apple iPhone.

We learned this when it was ruled that Samsung infringed on Apple iPhone (and iPad) technology and features that are so similar that Apple cried foul and Samsung had to put aside a few billion to make good on the ruling.

Financial implications aside, the brand management team behind the Samsung Galaxy S III should be pretty happy. Their new smartphone was judged to be the same as—or if you buy into the ad message, better than—the juggernaut that is the Apple iPhone. Now it is just a matter of leveraging and building on the earned media to convert iPhone customers to Samsung…just like the ad shows—from inside the “Apple fence” to outside the “Apple fence.” This turns out to be a pretty good metaphor, but we’ll get to that soon.

Is that a Samsung Galaxy S III in your pocket or are you just happy it’s bigger than an Apple iPhone 5?

Here is a nice summery of the lawsuit battles starting in April ’10 through October ’12. A timely update: Samsung is now suing Apple over new features in the iPhone 5. This will go on and on…

But what is the battle really about? If we follow Samsung’s commercial above, it is about tapping a friend’s smartphone to share playlists. It is about a larger screen. It is about using 4G technology. All this and more—the heart of the lawsuit is about features and benefits. As simple as that. Huge behemoth companies competing over product features and benefits.

This happens with companies of all sizes. They get caught up in all the great features their organization can offer and how the customer will benefit.

Who wins if everyone is the same?

A small industrial plastics manufacturing firm is able to do amazing things molding, extruding and shaping plastic into parts and products that can make it easier to ship medical implements or display candy on retail shelves. But how many other plastic manufacturing firms can do the same? A lot. And most will happily tell you that.

It is no different for accounting or law firms, coffee or bacon brands, banks or financial services firms…and marketing firms. If we are in the starting stages of choosing a new accounting firm, can we really tell how they are different?

What does it come down to if all your competitors can deliver the same products, services or features and benefits?

Price? Speed? Terms?

How about owning something better or different than the competitor.
Or to use “marketing lingo”: Defining your brand position in the market.

Smart “phones” were never really that smart until Apple gave birth to the iPhone. The product experience blew everyone away and the smartphone category was truly launched. Apple was light years (or at least 2 years) in front of any competitor. But that was not the only reason Apple was so successful. One of the big reasons for the success of the new-to-the-world iPhone is that it was built on the foundation of a fundamental Apple philosophy: Apple has, almost since day one, prided itself to be a closed system that just works. All parts and pieces elegantly work together to create a unique and satisfying—and expensive—user experience.

So that, to my marketing brain, becomes Apple’s brand position. Apple does not sell smartphones, computers, iPads, iTunes, apps or IOS software. They “own something” better or different: they are a technology company that sells a premium platform of products that easily work seamlessly together to create an end user experience that is intuitive, simple, enjoyable and, most importantly, not about technology.

And Samsung? I do know they sell TVs, washers, dryers, laptops, camcorders, refrigerators and vacuums. And smartphones and tablet computers. And although it would be very cool if they all worked together, I am pretty sure the smartphone is a stand-alone device. I am not sure how the new Samsung Galaxy S III will work with my computer or if I need to download and troubleshoot new software to make it work right.

My guess is that the folks inside the “Apple fence” like it there. They feel safe that the closed Apple system will make it easy to buy a new iPhone or iPad and they can get it up and running instantly with the Apple system they have. Can the same be said for Samsung? Does it require some big computer installation? How do my calendars, contacts and email all work together? Those are scary thoughts for people that are not comfortable with technology. And people that are not comfortable with technology vastly outnumber the amount of people who are. Some people just want their stuff to work.

When it comes to fighting for your place in the competitive marketplace it can pay to think about your brand vs. the features your company or product can offer. Whether it is a plastics company, an accounting firm or a bacon brand, the idc team is typically hired to help companies “own” a brand position and grow their market share. That’s because we “own” a position too: Strategic Marketing to Grow Your Business.


About the Author: Patrick Nycz is the president and owner of idc, an integrated strategic marketing firm. His team is currently helping companies define their brand position in their categories and using strategic marketing to grow their businesses. He spends his days, among other things, as a business owner, marketing strategist, account exec, cheerleader, salesman and excitable creative. Get connected to Patrick at LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter at @PatrickNycz or email him at Also “like” idc on Facebook!
This entry was published on October 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm. It’s filed under advertising, audience, brand, brand affinity, brand positioning, consumer goods, marketing, new product, Patrick Nycz, positioning, strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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