When Apple released the iPhone 5 in September 2012, Samsung stole its spotlight with a brand ambush for the record books. The highly anticipated iPhone and the campaign to promote it were overshadowed by Samsung's campaign for the Galaxy S3. "The Next Big Thing is Already Here" poked fun at Apple fans camped out waiting for the new iPhone, and it was a hit. On last September's iMedia Brands in Video chart, Samsung dominated with 51.4 million views to Apple's 17.6 million views.
But this year, Apple has once again reclaimed the month of September with its launch of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. Apple takes the No. 1 spot on September's iMedia Brands in Video chart with a True Reach of more than 34.8 million views. Samsung comes in at No. 4 with a True Reach of 19.5 million views.
Apple's two new phones were launched with product-focused campaigns. That's no surprise coming from the Palo Alto-based company, which relies more on interest in its brand than creative executions to drive awareness of new products.
The latest campaign includes an introduction featurette for the new iPhone 5c -- a less expensive version of the iPhone -- and a handful of 30-second spots that play up the colorful nature of the product. For the iPhone 5s, Apple created two videos to highlight the phone's newest features -- the iSight camera and Touch ID.
Out of the entire Phone 5s/5s campaign, it was this "Touch ID" video introducing the phone's fingerprint scanning technology that garnered the most views. Due to increased media coverage of the technology -- and speculation as to whether or not it worked -- the video drew 11.8 million views, a third of the campaign's total views.
Another 6.7 million views of the campaign came from spoofs. The most popular, "Introducing the iPhone 5c and 5s," from DavidSoComedy, garnered 3.6 million by poking fun at Apple for releasing a new phone that isn't drastically different from the last.
Is Apple still king?
Last year, when Samsung outshined Apple during its iPhone 5 launch, some critics pointed out that Apple's marketing strategy for its products might not be working anymore. Apple had, and still has, a tendency to release product-focused videos and trust that interest in the brand would make people want to watch. And people will view Apple campaigns not because of its creative content, but because of the attachment they have to the brand.
Then Samsung came along. The South Korean brand has a deep understanding of video and what it means to tell a story that really entertains and engages viewers. Samsung used its underdog status to poke fun at the top dog, Apple, in a similar way that Apple had done to Microsoft with "1984," "Think Different," and "Mac vs. PC."
It worked. Let's face it, who doesn't love an underdog? Samsung outperformed Apple in video views and went on to overtake the company as the world's leading smartphone maker.
Still, Apple pulled ahead of Samsung in terms of U.S. smartphone market share this September, according to Counterpoint Research. And while its global smartphone market share decreased, its brand strength grew. Apple officially passed Coca-Cola as the most valuable brand in the world this year, according to Interbrand.
So who is king of the smartphones? Is it Samsung because it leads in market share? Or is it Apple because of the strength of its brand?
Apple and Samsung are at an impasse. Both companies are leaders -- Apple by way of its rock-solid brand and Samsung by way of its increasing market share. This is the reason that Samsung couldn't launch the same kind of ambush against the iPhone 5s/5c release that it did with the iPhone 5. It's no longer the underdog. And it's the reason that Apple continues to produce campaigns that are so product-focused. It doesn't lead in market share, but it knows that the growing strength of its brand allows it to still act that way. And its brand is the company's absolute greatest weapon.