Do you buy a brand or a product?

  • by SalientMG Team
  • Nov 03, 2014


Apple launched new iPhones in October, and I have to say, as a diehard Android user, I was tempted to get one, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. No doubt two questions immediately come to mind with this opening remark:

  1. You’ve never owned an iPhone?
  2. Seriously, you’ve NEVER owned an iPhone??

Yes. This is true and for good reasons.

To start, I’ve been with Android from the beginning. Starting in 2007, I spent a nice chunk of my career leading marketing teams for wireless carriers and during that time, witnessed the beginning of the Android vs. iOS war. Of the carriers I worked for, none of them carried the iPhone while I was there. NONE of them. So I was an early Android adopter, never allowed to use an iPhone (well, not technically, but it would have been like working for Coke and drinking a Mt. Dew at my desk. Awkward!) .

My sales strategy was always to combat the iPhone with whatever smartphone line-up we had at our disposal, and I say “line-up”, because no one device had the weight to take on iPhone by itself. It was about positioning Android as a group of phones, and finding out which individual device may be the best fit. As a consumer, this enabled me to become very familiar with the ins and outs of the Android brand.

Of the Android OEM’s, Samsung took the lead with its creation of the Galaxy series, and in 2011, the bold introduction of the phablet (AKA the Note). I remember seeing the Note for the first time in a meeting room with the Samsung rep: I put that monolith up to my ear and immediately had visions of 2001 A Space Odyssey. It was intriguing, but I wasn’t immediately convinced that it was the one device for me. Changing form factor wasn’t enough.

So what did they do?

In 2012, Samsung humanized their Galaxy brand, gave it a personality and changed the smartphone conversation.

Check out this Galaxy S3 commercial from September, 2012:

The commercial briefly touches on unique device features, such as the ability to “touch to transfer,” but not too much, because everyone knows phones have features. To carve out an identity for themselves, it had to be about more than features. Starting with this spot, Samsung gave the brand a personality, and it was one that was decidedly anti-Apple.

As a consumer this message resonated with me, and it was the tipping point where I no longer went with Android because I had to, but because I wanted to. As a marketer I was equally as ecstatic, because until then, I had to tow the company line of focusing strictly on features, rate plans and network reliability – all table stakes to smartphone users, not points of differentiation. Beginning with this push from Samsung, the gloves were off, and together with the OEM’s, I launched regional campaigns that leveraged market demographic data to create target cohorts and change the perception of the carriers I supported.

Samsung allowed us to change the conversation, and make the brands cool and a “must have” by connecting with consumers where they lived, worked and played. Our market share increased, targeted demos were over-indexed and we created a lot of best-practices.

And that, in a jumbo-sized nutshell, is why I have never bought an iPhone. Nothing against it, but as Samsung was able to sum up in the commercial above, Android simply fits my personality better, and I bet if you look close, you’ll find brands (not necessarily products) that you’ve purchased for the same reason. If Samsung tried to compete only on features, I may very well be an iPhone user today.

Products are products, and it’s how you connect with them and their brands on a personal level that makes them relevant to you. I enjoy working with brand partners who have great products, but what’s really fun is building a story around a brand that connects with people and creates an emotional tie. A connection that evolves into brand loyalty always makes me, my brand partners and their consumers happy.

This walk down wireless memory lane was inspired by an article in Fortune about Cadillac’s attempt to transform their perception by new director of brand and reputation strategy, Melody Lee. In-short, at 33 years old, she was hired to drive reconsideration by 30-somethings who can afford luxury brands, and she’s doing what Samsung did – injecting relevance and personal connection into the brand. Take a minute to read the article here:​

Disclaimer: I will admit that as a product marketer I’ve used iPhone for app testing, design, etc. and in the gym for music, mainly because I don’t care if I drop it. I would never take my precious Android to the gym and besides, how do you work out with a monolith/phablet/obnoxiously large phone?! More 2001 imagery is coming to mind…


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