[THE INVESTOR] Early this year, Samsung Electronics
’ marketing team was preparing for the firm’s most important launch -- the Galaxy S7.
It was a crucial juncture for the Korean tech giant. Its profits were hit hard by lukewarm sales of the phone’s predecessor, while rivals were fast gobbling up market share of the world’s largest smartphone-maker.
But the team didn’t seek a safe option and decided to take risks.
They launched the model in Barcelona at the industry’s first virtual reality unveiling event in February. Thousands of journalists and industry people were treated with Samsung’s latest Gear VR headset to watch a demo video.
Pio Schunker, senior vice president of marketing at Samsung’s mobile communications business division.
Samsung sent a clear message that it was serious about VR. At the same time, it was a marketing statement that showed “Samsung thinks and behaves differently.”
Media reviews were explosive about the unprecedented experiment. Customers also reacted positively. Sales of the Galaxy S7 and its Edge variant are expected to reach a whopping 25 million units in the second quarter.
“Only we can do that on this scale,” Pio Schunker, senior vice president of marketing at Samsung’s mobile communications business division, said in a recent interview with The Investor.
“I’m surprised how bold this company is. It takes risks. And it allows you to take risks.”
Journalists and industry figures try on Samsung’s Gear VR at a launch event of the Galaxy S7 held in Barcelona in February. Samsung Electronics
The marketing expert with more than 25 years of experience joined Samsung in April last year. Prior to Samsung, he worked for diverse global brands such as Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz and American Express.
“It has been a great adventure,” he said of his work at Korea’s largest conglomerate over the past year.
He is currently splitting time in the US and Korea. The upcoming launch of a new Note phablet in August is another key event for him but he declined to further elaborate.
Calling himself a big fan of Korean food and films, he said he had always wanted to work in Asia and for a tech company. But the most decisive reason why he took the job offer was the company’s vision that was briefed by the top management.
“The brief was so appealing. That was very hard to turn down,” he said.
“They wanted me to make Samsung the most beloved iconic global brand and to make it famous for marketing innovations as much as it is for technological innovations.”
Amid the company’s renewed efforts to change its top-down, rigid corporate culture under the slogan “Start-up Samsung,” Schunker compared the company’s mindset and decision-making process with that of a start-up.
“We have both size and scale but we move at the speed of a start-up. That combination is so different from any other big company,” he said. “Its mentality and mindset is also that of a start-up.”
In the meantime, another competitiveness of Samsung, he pointed out, is the ability to listen.
When he first arrived at the company, his mentor Koh Dong-jin, the company’s president and mobile chief, told him: “You have to listen more than you talk. It’s a Samsung culture.”
“Especially for the first six months, he told me not to talk at all,” he said with a smile.
He now knows the ability to listen allows to give the right answer not just to colleagues but also to customers.
“The speed, the ability to listen and the boldness and risk taking that are very fundamental values that absolutely differentiate us from our rivals,” he said of the enhanced competition in a fast-saturated market.
Samsung, among other things, is pinning high hopes on its technological prowess, including its “phone-plus strategy” that aims to connect a phone with all machines ranging from appliances to cars, in winning over more customers.
“Up to a certain extent everyone is going to copy products but we have a constant disruption pipeline. No one can do that kind of disruptive innovations that Samsung is beginning to do,” he said.
And he knows his role at the ever-evolving tech company.
“Samsung is looking to rebrand itself. My role is to bring fresh perspective and viewpoints to marketing and production innovation, etc.,” he said.
When asked if there is any big push from the top brass, he responded: “I sometimes feel the pressure. But that makes my job exciting and that’s why I took the offer.”
By Lee Ji-yoon (email@example.com