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What to Do When Your Brand Goes Up in Smoke

Last year, reports of fires and explosions led to a massive recall of the Galaxy Note 7, making a few customers look at their cell phones with wary eyes.
This is more than a big deal for Samsung, a company that has tried to build a brand built on quality and trust:
“Samsung has built a brand based on quality, and all products used in consumers’ homes require a level of trust. The company has taken a hit to its image for both quality and trustworthiness.” – Globe and Mail
They did what any company would do, they issued a recall and tried to fix the damage as fast as they could by issuing replacement phones—and then came nightmare number two.
The phones weren’t fixed. Customers started reporting that lithium batteries in the new phones went up in flames, and Samsung had to kill the Samsung Note 7 completely. It really doesn’t get much worse than that:
“This is a calamity,” said Srinivas Reddy, director at the Center for Marketing Excellence at Singapore Management University told Bloomberg. “The threat for Samsung is how soon they can get back. If they don’t get back soon, it provides a vacuum for others to creep in.”
Brand disasters like this can happen to anyone, from a small scale to a larger one like Samsung’s phone disaster.
Here are five steps you can take to repair the damage when your brand goes up in smoke.
Step 1: Listen and be a part of the conversation.
The first and most important step to reputation management is to listen and be part of the conversation. If your customers don’t feel like you’re taking steps to right any wrongs you may have made, their trust in you and your products will plummet quickly.
The Gap and Comcast are two victims of such customer service blunders—simply because they weren’t prepared to handle customer service through popular channels like social media.
Use social media to listen and respond quickly to customer service concerns. Have your finger on the pulse of the issue at hand before it grows to the point where it’s out of your control. Even responding with a something like a simple link to the correct website page is helpful—and shows your customers you take them seriously.
Step 2: Establish a crisis management team.
When the going gets really rough, you need a team in place to handle the damage. In cases like the Samsung disaster, digital chatter around the issue soon gets out of control, and can become something that can outgrow the bandwidth of your customer service team.
Consider forming a team from your public relations (PR), human relations (HR), legal and marketing teams. Appoint a spokesperson from each department to handle situations where your brand’s reputation could be at stake.
This doesn’t necessary have to be a single team dedicated only to brand reputation management, but having a plan in place developed by key stakeholders in your organization before disaster strikes will help you respond in a timely manner.
Step 3: Let customers know when the problem will be fixed, honestly.
The biggest mistake that Samsung made was jumping the gun on telling customers and the media that the problem with the Galaxy Note 7 was fixed—when it clearly wasn’t.
If you have a small team, and don’t have enough bandwidth to stand on call and respond to customers in real-time, set expectations on when they can expect to hear from you, and when they can realistically expect their problem to be resolved.
The most important part of this tactic – you need to be able to stick to your timeline. Worst case scenario, you can lose your credibility when a second problem backfires (in the case of the Galaxy Note 7— literally).
Step 4: Have a plan to talk to the media, and a back-up plan if their coverage is negative.
After you’ve addressed your customers directly, you should make plans to structure a conversation with the media — especially if they’re already contributing to the negative image of your brand.
If they’re not interested, become the media yourself by aggressively publishing new content about your company. Include reviews and testimonials to regain control of how potential customers view your brand in search engines.
Step 5: Do something positive to put yourself back in the positive spotlight.
When you’ve done all you can do to mitigate the damage done to your brand from your misstep, start building a plan to bring the media’s attention to a more positive story about your brand—something valuable and trustworthy for your audience.
Consider participating in community events, linking your next product release to a social cause or mission, or make a big donation. Highlight any positive project for your customers to combat the negative image they’ve been seeing and hearing.
Bonus Step: Don’t be afraid to seek outside assistance if it gets really bad.
In some cases, your business team might just be too small to handle a major brand reputation disaster on their own. In these cases, consider bringing in outside help to build or repair your brand reputation when needed.
Start with your executives — having an expert handle the persona of your executives can go a long way in helping your audience reconnect with your brand on a personal level, and bring your human story to the forefront.
The bottom line — bad brand impressions stick. Dragging your feet or not following through on your word can do horrible damage to a brand. Getting ahead of the game could help save you in the future from any unseen problems.

Is Samsung’s S4 a Disappointment?

The smartphone battle is almost reminiscent of World War II: bombs thrown at both sides of the opposing camps and each one working on artillery and armor that can blow off the other. And much like any warfare, each battalion is working towards only one goal: power.
 
As for the smartphones battle, power is that of a bigger market share. A bigger bite in the pool of consumers means more money!
This has exactly been the story of mobile phone manufacturers Apple and Samsung. Over the past years, the two companies have been on each others tail, trying to push the other off the running for the top spot in the smartphone market race. They have taken strides to work on customer acquisition and customer retention in the hopes of knocking off the competition. Their best effort, however, in winning this battle is by releasing new and more technologically forward devices.
Apple has led the smartphone battle for some time before Samsung took over the lead with its greater range of smartphone. Using a distinct digital marketing strategy, the South Korean company has led the race by offering the market a distinct handset for every price range and demographic. However, it seems that Samsung is following the footsteps of its rival.
Is the Galaxy S4 Samsung’s Achilles’ heel?
Samsung released its newest flagship smartphone, Galaxy S4 earlier this year, and so far it was received with open arms. Everyone in social media was raving about its new features, and the electronics manufacturing company continued to provide consumers with updates and highlights of the phones features on both Facebook and Twitter. However, the sales didn’t reach expectations.
According to Bloomberg, Samsung’s operating costs for three months which ended in June was at 9.5 trillion won ($8.3 billion). While this may post great numbers, it still fell short of the 10 trillion won that was originally estimated for the brand by more than 30 analysts. This also caused the stocks of Samsung to drop the most in a single month.
Now, investors are worrying whether Samsung has already reached its peak and are now on their way down. However, a Samsung share-holder doubts this analogy.
“Is Samsung’s smartphone story now over? Not quite yet. Its growth is indeed slowing due largely to disappointing sales of the S4,” Jung Sang-jin, fund manager at Dongbu Asset Management and Samsung share-holder, told Reuters.
“Yet I think Samsung has some exciting stuff up its sleeves. The problem is no one is sure whether these products can really wow investors and consumers.”
Low-end the New Trend?
Reports also say that Samsung is not solely to blame for its slump, but that the market is already changing. According to, the high-end market is slowly becoming saturated and fewer consumers are choosing phones for their specifications as opposed to their price. The report also noted that a new niche in the smartphone market is slowly emerging, with users preferring low-end smartphones.
“This has typically been an area where Samsung has not been quite so successful,” IT Pro Portal wrote. “A growing demand from China for low-cost smartphones puts a little pain on Samsung’s profit margins.”
With all these in mind, Samsung should return to the drawing boards and get its mobile marketing strategies in full swing if it wants to keep its crown as smartphone leader.
 
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Cutting content

Meow! Samsung stings Apple fans… again!
The Samsung/Apple feud has once again spilled out of the courtroom and into Samsung’s advertising campaign, with the latest Samsung commercial ridiculing (and cashing in on) the hype over the release of the iPhone 5. In the few days since its release it has already had over 13 million views on YouTube, and there are definitely some hearty LOLs in it for those who have followed the development of both brands’ products over the last few years – or, for that matter, anyone who’s ever seen a line around the block at an Apple store.

The commercial is funny, sure, but more importantly it hits Apple consumers right where it hurts… their image. The technorati love to through words like ‘intuitive’ and ‘form and function’ around, but admitting that you’ve been brainwashed by the cult of Apple is not an easy thing.
If Apple’s image suffered a hit in the ‘cool’ department, there is little doubt that consumers would start flocking to other products. Whether Samsung can achieve that hit remains to be seen, but the truth of the commercial obviously resonates – which is why it’s being shared around like a batch of office birthday cupcakes.
 
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Everyone’s a winner?

The Apple vs Samsung patent ruling should ultimately benefit consumers
Although Samsung may have won the battle when a UK judge ruled its Galaxy tablet did not violate Apple’s intellectual property, it looks like Apple has won the war.
Last week a US court found that Samsung had wilfully infringed several of Apple’s design and software patents relating to Smartphones and tablets. As a result the South Korean firm has been ordered to pay Apple over $1 billion and now Apple has filed a court request to ban eight Samsung mobile devices.
Although Samsung has privately acknowledged that the jury’s finding is ‘absolutely the worst scenario for us’, the reality is probably not so serious. To begin with, we can expect Samsung to appeal the amount of the payment and, because the proposed ban only impacts older Samsung products rather than the mega-selling Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Note, sales in North America are unlikely to be affected too greatly.
And from a consumer perspective, the ruling is likely to be beneficial and Samsung is now forced to be far more creative, providing more choice at, ultimately, less cost.
 
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Spot the difference

Galaxy secures a legal victory over the iPad – thanks to being ‘uncool’
In another apparent slap in the face for Apple, a judge in the UK has ruled that Samsung’s Galaxy tablet does not violate Apple’s intellectual property – because it is simply isn’t ‘cool’ enough to be confused with the iPad.
Apple has been fighting a number of intellectual property and patent lawsuits around the world as the battle for supremacy in the multi-multi-million-dollar Smartphone and tablet markets heats up. Apple has accused rivals like Samsung and HTC of ripping off its designs (and vice-versa), but judge Colin Birss clearly doesn’t agree, ruling that Galaxy tablets ‘do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design They are not as cool.’
Samsung is delighted at the ruling (although probably less than happy about the ‘uncool’ reasons behind it), releasing a statement saying: ‘Should Apple continue to make excessive legal claims in other countries based on such generic designs, innovation in the industry could be harmed and consumer choice unduly limited.’
Apple immediately hit back with: ‘It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging. This kind of blatant copying is wrong and, as we’ve said many times before, we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.’
With so much at stake, it’s a fair bet this issue is far from settled.
 
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On your marks…

How content marketers are gearing up for the London Olympics
The sporting extravaganza that is the Olympics is less than 100 days away. Anyone who knows the area of east London where the bulk of the activities will be taking place can testify to its transformation.
But it’s not only a rundown urban area that has been overhauled. Marketing strategies have been completely rethought as content marketers prepare for the ‘social media games’.
At the time of the last Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Facebook was four years old and had some 140 million users. Now, it has around 900 million. Twitter was even more nascent – a two-year-old toddler in 2008 with two million users, a confident schoolie in 2012 with 150 million.
With gains of 642 per cent a staggering 7500 per cent respectively, it’s fair to say the growth of Facebook and Twitter – and social media in general – has been nothing short of phenomenal. Which is why marketers are so keen to tap into it for the Olympic Games.
The social media advantage
A report from Reuters says that ‘advertisers hope that social media will do much of the heavy lifting in raising brand profiles, by getting consumers to chat online’.
‘It’s all about engagement,’ says Peter Applebaum, founder of social media marketing agency Tick Yes and content marketing agency Tick Content (publisher of The Message). ‘Content marketing through social media allows brands to interact with their consumers. By creating relationships they can generate conversations, create coverage and, in the end, increase sales.’
And as Mark Renshaw of US-based advertising agency Leo Burnett told Reuters: ‘[In 2008] online marketing then focused on building websites. Today, brands are building elaborate campaigns… designed to create a buzz on Facebook and other social media sites such as Pinterest and Twitter.’
Olympic social media content marketing strategies
According to Ralph Santana, Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung, Facebook ‘is where consumers are… If you can figure out how to build communities around your brand, it’s really powerful.’
Which is why Samsung has used Facebook to launch its ‘Olympic Genome Project’. Featuring a game called How Olympic Are You?, users are invited to establish their Olympic connections by, for example, finding athletes from their hometowns or athletes who like the same music/movies as them.
As Reuters reports: ‘It gathers the information by tying in to a user’s Facebook page. The game dangles prizes such as discounted electronics and a trip to the Olympics to keep consumers coming back; whenever consumers complete an activity, such as a quiz on Olympic trivia, they are invited to post results to their Facebook page.’
According to Santana, the result has already been a doubling of the amount of time users spend on the site (an average of eight minutes per visit) compared to the standard Samsung sites.
As ever, Coca-Cola is ahead of the game when it comes to content marketing through social media. Its Move to the Beat campaign is based on a song by DJ Mark Ronson and singer Katy B. Fans can collect beat fragments on Facebook and edit a version of the song for their own page.

It comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Coke has just forged a promotional partnership with online streaming service Spotify. Through it, the soft drinks giant will integrate Spotify on its Facebook pages in return for using Spotify to power its Coca-Cola Music program. A joint app is also said to be forthcoming.
Social media ‘drives us toward content that is able to provoke consumer conversation,’ said James Eadie, Olympic Portfolio Director for Coca-Cola. ‘That drives longevity.’
Money well spent
Reuters reports that ‘a comprehensive multimedia Olympic campaign might cost anywhere from $30 million to $50 million’, with digital outlets ‘attracting funds that might have gone to television in prior years’.
It’s a hefty pricetag, but brand executives claim it is well worth it because ‘they can weave tighter connections between their brands and target customers during the Olympics compared to other events.’
Proctor & Gamble is another company with a targeted Olympics social media campaign. Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer has clear goals for the campaign: ‘What we want to try to do is get a 10 per cent lift on our Facebook brand pages. That would be a lot quicker than we normally do.’
Pritchard knows from experience how successful an Olympics tie-in can be, saying that recalls of messages after the company’s Vancouver 2010 Olympics television campaign was 30 per cent more than for its regular campaigns.
And with social media powering the conversation, many of the world’s leading brands are betting that those statistics will be even more impressive post-London.
 
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TECH TALK: Galaxy Nexus undone!

How to burst a brand’s bubble in 1 minute 34 seconds…
There was a lot of hype about Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus when it arrived on the market a little while ago, mainly due to the fact that it is the first phone in the world to feature Google’s version 4.0 of its operating system, ICS – nicknamed ‘the ice-cream sandwich’.
One of the more lauded features within that operating system was the facial recognition software required to unlock the phone, said to be far more secure than remembering those pesky passwords. But check out what happens when a savvy user tests this theory with a picture of himself, exposing the technology’s security flaws…

 
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