Samsung Launches a Motor Business

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Samsung entered the automobile business in 1995 and, under the new Samsung Motors division, introduced its first car in February. The company’s successful launch of the new SM5 car was a surprise to many, both because Samsung had little experience in the automobile business, and because the company had only three years to plan its marketing strategy.

It was important for our agency to recognize Korea’s unique social and business culture and to reflect Korea’s situation into all of our promotions for Samsung Motors. We knew that Korean consumers had been dissatisfied with other car manufacturers because those companies tended to consider cars only as transportation. To deal with this, we helped Samsung adopt a corporate communications concept wrapped around the theme of a “customer-centered automotive culture,” and unveiled a promotion using before-and-after car-launch events.

It’s well known that Koreans love promotions; many even prefer them to advertising. Research, field campaigns, and street events have proved this. For the Samsung campaign, we wanted to target the right people, so we developed a series of on-site promotions and an ad campaign to create excitement for the new SM5 model.

Samsung has many subsidiaries, so it made sense for us to tap into each of them with a series of tie-in promotions that made full use of the Samsung name. Our challenge was to adopt a strategy to win over consumers, although Samsung Motors had no cars ready when the campaigns were being launched in 1997. Consumers were told they would have to wait up to a year before they would even see a car, but we grabbed them with a series of events to whet their appetites.

Name it & drive it We developed four major campaigns, two before the launch and two after. The basic idea was a two-way communication that paid close attention to the reactions of the consumers. Everything we produced worked toward our goal for a customer-centered automotive culture.

Samsung Motors got consumers involved by inviting them to name the new car. To publicize the promotion, we launched a newspaper ad campaign, and used on-site suggestion-gathering during a nationwide promotional tour, direct-mail solicitation, and online ads. The campaign generated 145,000 suggestions, and everyone who responded received a thank-you letter that included the winning name.

The second pre-launch campaign was a tie-in promotion wrapped around the new Samsung Motors credit card to help build Samsung’s database. Customers who used the card could accumulate points based on purchase amount, and redeem them for discounts on Samsung autos. Two months after the credit card launch, brand name recognition of the Samsung Motors Credit Card reached more than 76 percent, and 24 percent of those who recognized the brand name expressed an interest in buying a Samsung vehicle (versus 13 percent for the general population).The credit card campaign was the first of its kind in Korea, and Samsung now has three million names in its database.

The first Samsung vehicle was introduced with a large-scale event for consumer reps and opinion leaders in February. Samsung toured five cities in five days to show off the car, and managed to convey the concept of “Feel the Touch of Value.” The event attracted more than 4,000 people, including government and academic officials, customers who had reserved vehicles for purchase, customer groups, preferred credit card customers, and vendors. The event generated significant word-of-mouth advertising.

Finally, for two months starting the day after the launch, a traveling road show toured the country, allowing consumers to see the vehicle. The road show took place on Korean roads, and included product displays, demos, and test-drives for potential car-buyers. Of course we also collected names for our database. More than 90,000 people attended the road shows, and more than three million experienced Samsung’s vehicles firsthand.

Despite the Asian economic crisis, the SM5 roams the roads of Seoul and other major Korean cities.


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