Samsung's strategy for keeping up with Apple is to be mean


Does being petty pay off?

Next week, Samsung’s newest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 9, will hit stores. It’s a wonderful, giant phone that really has no rivals at that size. It follows Samsung’s Galaxy S9, another great phone, which it released in March.

But sales of the S9 have reportedly been weak, accounting for a slowdown in the company’s earnings. Analysts have predicted it’ll be the worst-selling Galaxy phone in six years, according to The Verge.

Samsung is still the dominant smartphone manufacturer in the world by a wide margin, according to the market-research firm IDC. But Apple, its longtime rival in the smartphone wars, recently fell to third place in worldwide market share, behind Huawei.

Regardless, when it comes to the way Samsung is marketing its new devices, it appears to be fixated on just bashing Apple.

Samsung launched a new advertising campaign earlier this year called “Ingenius,” clearly mocking the Genius Bars found at Apple stores. The ads focus on a dimwitted Apple employee who tows the company line on its products, and remains unaware of what other companies offer, as customers who seem to know a ton specifically about Samsung products pepper him with questions.

Samsung has for years run anti-Apple ads, including a historical look at a longtime Apple fan who finally realized Samsung phones might better suit his needs. The ad highlighted what Samsung phones could do that Apple’s couldn’t.

Its new ads, however, seem to just be making fun of people who work for Apple, rather than explaining why someone should buy a Note 9.

One has a customer asking why the Apple Pencil (its stylus for iPads) doesn’t work on the iPhone. Instead of asking why anyone would need that, it just shows the Apple employee dumbfounded:

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The other has a customer saying the Note 9 is powerful (which it is!) but not explaining what you can do with that power. Instead it just has the Apple employee again scrounging for retorts:

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It’s getting harder and harder to do innovative, interesting things in smartphone hardware. Just about every high-end phone released these days has a great display, a great camera, good battery life, and looks like a black rectangle. Some try to differentiate their devices with wacky gimmicks—like Motorola and all the things you can slap onto its phones, or Samsung with its built-in Note styluses. Others try to build communities around their hardware, like OnePlus.

But when that doesn’t work, the answer is apparently to attack competitors. The Note 9 and the S9 are both very good phones, as is the iPhone X. If Samsung is struggling to sell phones, perhaps it should be more worried about what its phones can do, not what its competitors—who happen to have recently become the US’s first trillion-dollar company, mainly by selling expensive phones—are up to.

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