Marketing Missteps From Samsung and LG

When Samsung unveiled a new smartphone at the storied Radio City Music Hall, the Broadway-style spectacle was memorable not for technology but for a cast of giggling female characters who fantasized about marrying a doctor, fretted about eating too much cake, and needed a man's help to understand how to work the phone.

The stereotypes were blatant even for an industry where skimpily clad booth babes are a staple of trade shows and high-level female executives are a rarity. A backlash spread online as the event, live-streamed on the Internet and broadcast in Times Square, unfolded.

How could an international company that wants to be seen as an innovator and spends more than $11 billion a year on advertising and promotions so badly misjudge its audience? Without too much difficulty and often it turns out.

A day before the Galaxy smartphone launch in March last year, the company was criticized in South Africa for using models in bikini tops to show its newest refrigerators and washing machines.

Some months later it was derided for a video promoting a fast data storage device known as a solid state drive. Two men in the ad immediately recognize the device and understand the benefits while a woman, who says she only uses her computer for simple activities such as looking at pictures, is befuddled.

Marlene Morris Town, a marketing professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, said the portrayals are "troubling" and imply that men are the sole target of the sales message. If women are the target, the implication is "they are significantly less competent and not able to grasp technology."

Samsung is hardly alone in talking down to half of its potential customers.

Joking that gadgets made by LG Electronics distract attention from models, Facebook user Lee Sang-hoon collected two dozen images of the company's products promoted...

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