In mid-September, 2012 when Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, was on stage in San Francisco introducing the iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy team was huddled with its ad agency listening to the presentation, tracking each new feature and watching real-time comments on blogs and social media sites.
As the data flowed in, the marketing team and the ad agency were developing a response to blunt the iPhone 5’s introduction. Two hours later, they were drafting the print, digital and TV ads. One week later, as the iPhone 5 went on sale, Samsung began airing what became the most popular tech ad of 2012, attracting more than 70 million views online. The ad mocked Apple “fanboys” queuing up for the new phone, showing these Apple followers saying things like “wow, the headphone jack is going to be on the bottom!” In another of the ads, a Samsung fan is waiting in the line for the iPhone, and when asked, explains he is saving the place of his parents who went to get coffee.
The Samsung ads not only mocked the “fanboys” but also explained exciting features of the Samsung Galaxy SIII of “beaming” photos by pressing together the backs of two phones, causing a “fangirl” to ask when Apple was going to get that.
The results were amazing. In the weeks following the iPhone 5 launch, Samsung sold a record-breaking number of Galaxy SIII’s. The recent surge by Samsung has put it in the #1 position globally in smartphones and in a dead heat with Apple in the USA. In fact, ABI Research put Samsung’s share of smartphones at 33%, with Apple at 30%.
What are the key leadership reminders we can take from this story:
1.) Speed and Urgency are Essential – Given the competitive world we live in, there is just no substitute for moving fast. Timetables need to be set to reflect such urgency.
2.) Clear Goals Need to be Established – When moving fast, you better have the right target. Any lack of clarity regarding that goal can lead to wasted effort and lost opportunity.
3.) A Highly Talented Small Team with Authority is Essential – Fewer people is better when you need to get something done, and they must have the authority to make decisions. Hence, it is essential to staff with outstanding talent.
Samsung is really on a roll in the smartphone category and there is a lot related to leadership that they are doing very well.