(1) Superbowl Ad

(2) Galaxy vs. iPhone Image

3) Print ad



4) Workplace Party Ad

5) Graduation Pool Party Ad

            Since the dawn of the first computers, our world has changed into a highly technological one where smartphones and laptops are a must-have in everyone’s lives. For a while, America’s smartphone industry has been dominated by Apple’s iPhone, and whether it be a child, teenager, elderly, woman or man, we could observe everyone using an iPhone, or waiting in line in front of the Apple store for hours to buy one when a new iPhone is released. Recently, Samsung has been trying to break Americans’ loyalty to Apple and launched “The Next Big Thing is Already Here” campaign to promote their Galaxy smartphones. At first encounter, all of these ads may just seem like witty, or maybe even slightly “playing dirty” to degrade the iPhone to the Galaxy. However, behind Samsung’s attempt to go viral with their bold commercials, lies a core marketing strategy. By positioning the Galaxy as “the next big thing,” Samsung’s campaign seeks to embody the social values of the Generation Xers. All components of the campaign, including the advertising tactic, visual presentation of ads, celebrity endorsements and more, highlight the values originally created since the dawn of the Generation Xers who are media and tech savvy.

            First, it is rather obvious but we must take into account that the Generation Xers were “more media savvy, and critical of the rampant consumerism of their parents” (Leiss, et al., 466). Although the target market for a smartphone has a diverse range from young children to the elderly, Samsung latches onto a specific demographic of seemingly tech savvy people to insist to the public that the Galaxy is “already” being used by trendsetters; in other words, the Generation Xers.

            For instance, in the graduation pool party ad (5), we can see that there are two distinct groups: the parents, and the high school kids who have just graduated. Throughout the entire ad, we can see the parents using phrases such as “You’ve got to be kidding me!” or “Oh wow! So you’re saying that some smartphones are smarter than other smartphones?” as if they are completely ignorant of “the next big thing.” They are the group of consumers who are not knowledgeable and just buy products for the purpose of consumerism. Furthermore, they don’t weight the benefits of which products have good features, and just use the iPhone because everyone else does. On the other hand, the high school students who already have their tricks figured out with the Galaxy suggest that they are “more selective about what they consume (Leiss, et al., 477)” and that they are “less loyal to brands (Leiss, et al., 477)” because they made a quick switch to Samsung without being loyal to Apple.

           This concept of “loyalty,” though, is a bit ironic. While the Generation Xers are generally known for their lack of loyalty to certain brands, the campaign still attempts to create Boorstin’s notion of a consumption community, in which the “context rather than the product becomes, in a sense, the object of the consumers’ desires (Leiss, et al., 148).” At 0:37 of the graduation pool party video, a high school graduate does a cool trick of swapping photos instantly with another Galaxy. Seeing this, a parent who owns an iPhone asks how she can do the same thing, and the high school graduate replies “Yours doesn’t do that,” thus making the distinction between the tech and media savvy youngsters who own Galaxies, versus the old and ignorant parents who own iPhones. By differentiating these two groups, Samsung latches onto the personality of the younger generation and interpellates them as Samsung’s supporters, but also speak to the older generation by suggesting that they should follow what the Generation Xers are doing.

           This separation of consumption communities can also be seen in the workplace party ad (4). In this ad, we see a woman at a fancy workplace party with her coworkers. As the party progresses, people who own the Galaxy receive instant photos of what’s happening at the party and are constantly updated. However, the protagonist doesn’t own a Galaxy, causing her to miss all the big moments of the party that everyone else is aware of. This places the protagonist outside of the consumption community. Nevertheless, this ad has a larger underlying community that it speaks to. In Veblen’s discussion, he refers to the culturati, which is “the culturally oriented consumer (Leiss, et al., 453).” The culturati maintain distinctive consumption patterns, which are constructed by their upbringings: “higher levels of education, access to cultural institutions, professional parents, and higher income (Leiss, et al., 520).” It is difficult to tell whether everyone in the ad, in fact, has all these qualities of the culturati. But, judging from the aesthetic presentation of the ad, we can assert that the workplace party is for people with office jobs rather than menial labor. Furthermore, the location of the party, the drinks and the language of conversations signify that the people who are at this party are most likely highly educated, have access to cultural institutions such as a workplace party, maintain a certain social status, and have enough income to purchase the nice clothes and most importantly, a Galaxy. Although the protagonist is initially separated from her coworkers who own the Galaxy, in the end, she gives in and says, “That’s it, I’m getting the Galaxy.” As a result, the consumption community that this ad speaks to is the culturati, including the protagonist who will ultimately join the other Galaxy owners by making a purchase decision. This again, ties into the values of the Generation Xers who “rather than being rejecters of consumerism, purchase and spend on things that increase their sense of esteem and belongingness (Leiss, et al., 488).”

           All of the aforementioned consumption communities are interconnected through a lifestyle format, where the ads “use a stereotype based on inferences about the relationship of the individual to the group or social context (class, status, race, ethnicity, role relations, group membership (Leiss, et al., 190).” Both the high school graduation party ad (5) and the workplace party ad (4) make clear stereotypes of the Generation Xers and the culturati. The consumption communities are not only distinguished through age and the level of education, but also through their uses of the Galaxy. In both the ads, the function of taking pictures and sharing them instantaneously is highlighted, which is essentially the “activity that is the basis of the connection with common use for the product (Leiss, et al., 194).” The specific function of sharing photos instantaneously is only one aspect of the Galaxy, but in the bigger picture, it is clear that the consumption communities are tied together by the fact that they have unified uses of the smartphone according to similar lifestyles.

           The lifestyle format can also be seen in the Galaxy print ads (3). First, the print ad that has pictures of different apps surrounding the smartphone has everything from music to Facebook to different search engines (such as Google) to sports. The signifiers such as the Super Mario character and a soccer ball outline all the activities that can be achieved through owning a Galaxy. Rather than speaking to consumption style, this ad positions the Galaxy as not just a smartphone, but more as a lifestyle companion that helps people who have “common use for the product (Leiss, et al., 194)” carry out their daily activities. The other print ad contains a slogan: “Fast. Vivid. Slim. What’s Your Smart Life?” “Fast” emphasizes that the Galaxy does not lag, and thus helps its users carry out their activities quickly, whether it’d be making a Google search, or playing games on the smartphone. “Vivid” accentuates the Galaxy’s vivid screen and camera pixel, insisting that its users can enjoy photos, videos and other content without having to worry about distortion of images. “Slim” highlights the fact that the Galaxy is slim enough to fit into people’s pockets, and that carrying the Galaxy around won’t be a hassle. The people who could possibly need the fast, slim and vivid features of a smartphone are probably people who A) do so many routine things with the smartphone that they need it to be quick and painless, B) are tech savvy enough to have the propensity to view visual content through their phones or use their phones to share visual content, and C) need their phones at all times which is why they want the phone to be slim so that it’s easy to carry around. The slogan, then, asks “What is your smart life?” fundamentally asking the consumer if they are leading a “Smart Life” that can be assessed through whether the consumer’s daily lifestyle choices can benefit from the fast, vivid and slim characteristics of the Galaxy. Hence, the slogan asks the consumer to construct their identity as an individual who belongs to the consumption community of people who lead a “Smart Life,” through consumption choices (Goldman & Papson, 85).

           In a way, the slogan asking “What’s Your Smart Life?” acknowledges the sovereign consumer (Leiss, et al., 81) but makes a statement on their consumption choices simultaneously. It recognizes that the consumer may buy whatever they desire, but at the same time, it asserts that a smart consumer would buy the Galaxy. This same concept can be applied to the print ad comparing the iPhone and the Galaxy (2). In this ad, the functions of the iPhone and the Galaxy are outlined, clearly showing that the Galaxy is superior to the iPhone in its capabilities. Visually, the ad gives light to the Galaxy as the Galaxy has its screen showing, and the white color scheme that is coherent throughout the ad makes the Galaxy standout as opposed to the rather dead and dull-looking iPhone. This product information format is often preferred by the Generation Xers because they are media savvy and already knowledgeable of the obvious marketing tactics of brands (Leiss, et al., 488). Moreover, again, this ad’s slogan “It doesn’t take a genius” makes a statement on consumption choices, alluding that it really doesn’t take a genius or a particularly savvy person to choose Samsung because its superiority to the iPhone is so obvious. Hence, providing information of the Galaxy recognizes consumer sovereignty (which is a distinct characteristic of the Generation Xers who selective about what they consume), while questioning the audience of their purchasing decisions categorizes them into those who are smart, and those who aren’t.

           Samsung’s campaign also uses the advertising of “cool” to reach its target consumers. As aforementioned, the Generation Xers are media savvy. In other words, they are not prone to being manipulated by advertising strategies, and they pride themselves in being aware of the media scene. “To Generation Xers, the marketplace, the advertising and mass media continue to be a seamless fabric of popular culture, one not more important than the other, and all interacting in a complex web of intertextual references and commonly shared experiences (Leiss, et al., 488).” Because they grew up surrounded by new media and technologies, they are able to relate one platform to another and make connections between brands, products, media contents and technologies. This is exactly the youth market that “cool” advertising aims to target. Not only does this youth group have enough disposable income that allows them to purchase unnecessary products, but also youth in general as a cultural ideal exert a sense of trendiness and freshness that Samsung wishes to exude in its brand identity.

           An example of the “cool” tactic can be seen in the Superbowl ad (1) that uses celebrity endorsements of Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, and Le Bron James. Celebrity endorsement is a primary example of cultural cannibalism or intertextuality, as the tactic requires that the audience is aware of the pop culture reference; in other words, in order the understand the ad, the audience must know who Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, and Lebron James are, and also understand the reason for their appearance in the ad. “For brands to be truly cool, they need to layer the uncool-equals-cool aesthetic of the ironic viewer onto their pitch (Klein, 78).” In the context of the Superbowl ad, we can see Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan fighting over who is the real new face of “The Next Big Thing” campaign. Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd are clearly not A-list Hollywood stars like DiCaprio, but they have recently gained popularity for their characters in movies that are “uncool.” Therefore, by using humor of the “uncool” but funny actors claiming to be the new face of Samsung, the ad establishes the “uncool-equals-cool.”

           Another strategy that brands can use to be cool, is by self-mocking and talking back to themselves. Again, this is demonstrated in the Superbowl ad. The Samsung employee who’s hiring Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd is clearly a snob who speaks obnoxiously and degrades the two actors in terms of their value to the company. He treats Lebron James like a star while speaking to the two actors in a condescending tone, which pokes fun at the high-income marketers who judge people based on superficial qualities. By adding these negative traits to the figure who’s supposed to represent Samsung, the brand mocks itself which communicates humor and a sense of “cool” to its audience. And by attempting to communicate the sense of “cool,” Samsung’s campaign validates the Generation Xers characteristic of being media-savvy.

           Samsung’s “The Next Big Thing is Already Here” campaign has successfully gone viral across the United States, and now Samsung levels with its major competitor Apple in terms of brand awareness and popularity. By using the word “next,” Samsung positions the “brand as an alternative to the current, and in the vernacular of the times, seemingly ‘uptight’ category leader” (Leiss, et al., 500) which is Apple. “Big Thing” positions Samsung as a wagon that everyone should hop on, led by the savvy Generation Xers. “Already Here” speaks to consumers who are sensitive to trend, and alerts others who aren’t yet aware to join. We can see that even the main campaign slogan seeks to highlight the values of the Generation Xers who are aware of their media surroundings and are trendsetters. By creating consumption communities and categorizing them into those who own the Galaxy and those who don’t, the campaign taps into the consumer’s desire to lead a certain lifestyle and be included in a particular group. Furthermore, by acknowledging that its consumers are not ignorant, Samsung is able to communicate with its audience through using “cool” tactics and witty slogans. Henceforth, Samsung’s “The Next Big Thing is Already Here” campaign ultimately carries values created by the Generation Xers.


<Works Cited>

Goldman, Robert and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.”

            The Consumer Society Reader. 2000: 81-97. Print.

Klein, Naomi. “Alt.Everything: The youth Market and the Marketing of Cool.” Print.

Leiss, William, et al. Social Communication in Advertising. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Narls. “Samsung Galaxy S3 Marketing Campaign.” Blogger. Blogger, 25 Nov. 2012.

            Web. 7 May. 2013.

TechLifeChannel. “Samsung The Next Big Thing Super Bowl Commercial.”

            Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 3 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 May. 2013.

“The Next Big Thing Ads: 3 Great Camera Tricks.” Samsung. Samsung, 12 Oct. 2012. Web.

           7 May. 2013.

Zaandaruwala. “Samsung Galaxy S4 The next big thing is here. (takes on the iphone).”

            Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 4 May. 2013. Web. 7 May. 2013.