Fall '12 Brand

September 9-12, 2012 | Coronado, California

How data-driven marketing resurrected Samsung Mobile

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What happens when a marketing department starts using analytics to inform its creative? Take a lesson from this impressive turnaround story.

When Brian Wallace started as VP of strategic marketing at Samsung Telecommunications America in 2011, things in the marketing department were, in his words, depressing. The company was No. 4 in the mobile category. Preference for the brand in this category was flat at 17 percent. People in the marketing organization were staying, on average, for seven months.

Fast-forward a single year. Things have changed. Samsung is now neck-and-neck with its top competitor in the mobile space. Preference is up to 34 percent and growing. As you might imagine, people in the marketing department are feeling pretty good.

So, what was responsible for this dramatic turnaround?

In a word: data.

During a keynote interview with Networked Insights' Dan Neely at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado, Wallace detailed the dramatic turnaround of Samsung Mobile. And that turnaround started when the company's marketing organization stopped being driven by its creative gut and started being driven by data and conversations about the brand.

"We got rid of this very traditional approach to marketing," Wallace said. "We now look to data to inform our strategy, our creative, and our execution."

To craft its "Next Big Thing" campaign for the Galaxy S II, Samsung lifted conversations that people were having around the brand in social media and used them to inform its creative. The result? A spot that resonated with its customers in an entirely new way.

"It rang true," Wallace said. "Why? Because it was true."

The spot poked fun at Samsung and the mobile industry simultaneously -- and that resonated with the smartphone-obsessed crowd. Wallace knew it resonated because the data told him so.  Within six weeks, Samsung Mobile surged in popularity to rival the top competitor in the mobile category. And so, emboldened by its successes, the company turned back to the data to go big -- Super Bowl big.

For the launch of the Galaxy Note, the company rolled out this over-the-top spot:

"We looked to fit the celebrity with the psychographic profile of the people we were targeting," Wallace said. "Data emboldens us to do crazy things like put The Darkness in a Super Bowl spot." In other words, data enables a company like Samsung to place hundred-million-dollar bets with its campaigns. And those bets have paid off.

The rising tide of Samsung Mobile is evident in the social sphere as well. Wallace noted that Samsung is currently growing on Facebook by a million followers per week and is about to crack the top-10 brand list on the platform. More importantly, Samsung has pulled parallel to the top company in the mobile space.

"This didn't happen because I'm some genius marketer," Wallace said. "It's because we use data to do this work."

That data doesn't always come cheap. In fact, Wallace told the summit crowd that Samsung currently spends 10 times as much on data and analytics than anyone else in the room. That expenditure isn't something you can justify if you're purely using analytics to measure your campaigns. But when you're using the analysis of the analytics to inform every element of your marketing strategy, the expense is more than worth it.

"We always insist that the data guys are at the table for the strategy sessions," Wallace said. "The data guys lead these conversations. Not the creative guys. Not the sale guys. And it's not just analytics -- it's analysis."

To conclude, Wallace noted that brands must look for agencies that are willing to put the data ahead of the creative. Doing so, he noted, does not crush the art of advertising. It simply informs it -- and ultimately improves it.

Lori Luechtefeld is editor of iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow Luechtefeld at @loriluechtefeld. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet, and stay up to date on happenings at this week's brand summit through the hashtag #iMediaSummit.