Content Marketing Showdown: Apple vs. Samsung
“Everybody talks about Apple. Nobody talks about Samsung. … To play Apple’s game as a direct competitor, which is what Samsung has been doing, is really, really hard.”
That’s what former Apple CEO John Scully told CNET earlier this year. But despite those fighting words, the two brands are locked in a battle; while Apple holds the lead on U.S. market share by a margin of 41.7 percent to 28.6 percent, Samsung owns a similar lead in the global market. And of late, both have been launching an advertising blitz.
With the competition heating up, we had to ask: Which brand is doing a better job at content marketing? It’s a curious matchup to consider. After all, Apple takes a peculiar approach. It doesn’t have Twitter or Facebook accounts, run a blog, or produce a web series. By contemporary standards, that amounts to a pretty weak content strategy. Meanwhile, Samsung manages a number of social accounts, runs celebrity-partnered campaigns, and teams up with major apps to reach new audiences.
But you can’t deny that Scully has a point. Apple has made its products a necessity for anyone who wants to be relevant in today’s culture, dominating (and leading) the conversation about digital connectivity. Samsung has battled against its rival for cultural relevance, but how much have those efforts actually paid off?
So for our first Content Marketing Showdown, we put Scully’s words to the test by evaluating the content marketing for these two tech giants across five categories: innovation, entertainment, social savvy, consistency, and impact. Let’s see who will take the crown.
When it comes to content marketing, the most innovative campaigns are about the consumer, not the product itself. Apple and Samsung have both accomplished this.
Apple’s “Your Verse” campaign of 2014 makes the story all about you. The campaign showcased stories of how different people were using the iPad to do amazing things, like how a hearing-impaired user travels the world with the help of translation apps and how a choreographer shapes his Bollywood routines.
Meanwhile, Samsung got artsy with user-generated content by launching its “Incredible Art Piece” campaign to promote the Galaxy Note Pen Stylus. Breaking the Guinness World Record for most artists working on the same art installation (300,000+), Samsung Mobile India invited participants to submit a digital drawing through the Incredible Art Piece microsite, Facebook app, or email.
Just last month, however, Apple launched a campaign for its new smartphone on the same day Samsung released the Galaxy S6. In other words: Game on. Apple’s World Gallery featured photos from across the globe that were taken with the iPhone 6.
When it comes down to it, some say Apple’s products are so ubiquitous the company doesn’t even have to do any content marketing. Apple creates the devices that help others create content marketing. For example, I’m writing this on a Macbook and answering emails on my iPhone. And marketers are already speculating about how brands will use the Apple Watch to reach new audiences. So maybe Apple doesn’t have to do content marketing. But just to be safe, it still does, and in the best way: by telling the stories of the people who use its products.
Apple may win at innovation, but when it comes to marketing, Samsung is all about entertainment. And as the company responsible for the world’s first major consumer 4K curved TVs, it should be.
Speaking of TV, Samsung made sure its product was front and center at the 2014 Academy Awards. Millions of viewers saw host Ellen DeGeneres take a selfie with numerous other A-list stars on a Samsung phone. That selfie also became the most retweeted tweet of all time.
It’s no secret that Samsung loves star power. The company partnered with Jay Z to produce commercials for his Magna Carta Holy Grail album, and teamed up with Usher for product placements in his “Looking 4 Myself” music video. Apple may have generated buzz among the music industry for acquiring Beats by Dre, but, at least according to Kanye West, that deal would have never occurred if Samsung and Jay Z hadn’t paved the way with their partnership.
Still, when it comes to video, Samsung is probably best known for its “Next Big Thing” campaign, which features ads that skewer Apple product culture, particularly the fact that Apple devotees wait in line for hours for new products. The commercials angered Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller so much that Apple sued Samsung for $2 billion in damages.
Samsung may have launched an entertainment dud when it tried to reach millennials with the “Best Future” sitcom, but Apple also creepily planted U2’s new album in everyone’s iTunes library without warning, so we’ll forgive Samsung for that one.
You can find Apple on YouTube, but that’s about the extent of the company’s official presence on major social platforms. Samsung, meanwhile, handles several YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook pages for Samsung Mobile, Samsung TV, Samsung USA, and more. The tech giant has used these accounts to promote many social campaigns like #OverToYou. For this campaign, Samsung gave its Galaxy S4s smartphone to 12 influential bloggers and YouTubers, asking them to create content and encourage their followers to do the same.
Samsung has also partnered with major apps and platforms to target users with social campaigns. Following up on its “Next Big Thing” campaign, Samsung created a Time Machine microsite on Foursquare to help recommend the “next big thing” users can discover in their travels. Time Machine also gives Foursquare users the ability to turn their check-in history into a shareable infographic. Over on Snapchat, Samsung was one of the first brands to try out the Our Story live stream feature by sponsoring content from the American Music Awards.
Needless to say, Samsung wins this round.
Both Apple and Samsung have had their issues with content marketing consistency, but that’s to be expected for tech companies constantly trying to innovate in an ever-changing digital landscape.
Though it’s often cited as one of the best Super Bowl commercials of all time, Apple’s “1984” ad is unrecognizable from today’s Apple brand, which is simple and sleek—just like its products. Later on, in 2001, Samsung had its own issues by trying to launch the DigitAll mag, which was short-lived and eventually repurposed as the Samsung Vision app.
Commercials and apps can come and go, but—at least today—social media platforms are constants; brands are supposed to be active and consistent on their accounts at all times. And, ultimately, that’s where Samsung’s downfall lies. There is only one Apple, and its product videos and commercials are solid and consistent enough to be known—and parodied—worldwide. But Samsung is represented by Samsung USA, Samsung Mobile, Samsung TV, Samsung UK, etc. All of these channels are most likely created to make the brand’s reach greater, but conversely, they can end up diluting the brand’s consistency.
According to CNET, Samsung spent 15 percent more than Apple on U.S. mobile marketing in 2014. But Apple still continues to outsell Samsung, even with Samsung’s new Galaxy products on the market. Evidently, the biggest budget doesn’t always make for the most effective marketing strategy. It may pay for a live-streamed Jay Z concert and exposure at the Oscars, but sometimes audiences don’t want to just be entertained. When it comes to technology suited for business, art, and everyday life, consumers want to be empowered. And that’s where Apple has succeeded the most with its content.
By appealing to our emotions with share-worthy ads like “The Song,” and highlighting the consumer’s story with campaigns like “Your Verse,” Apple appeals not just to fans of its product, but also to fellow creators. Inspiring creators and giving them the tools to keep doing what they love? That’s the gift that keeps on giving, and the most profound impact a technology company can have.
Winner: Apple, 3–2
Apple doesn’t have a typical marketing strategy, but that’s because it’s not a typical technology company. Apple may not tweet along with consumers from an official @Apple account, but it doesn’t have to—the brand is strong enough to motivate its audience to drive the cultural conversation for its products. Apple’s success proves that if you have an amazing product and launch a few key campaigns that put the consumer first, you can generate the ultimate ROI: loyalty.Image by Christian Bertrand