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Samsung’s New Marketing Chief Outlines Philosophy

Ridgefield Park, N.J. — Samsung Electronics America has handed the newly created position a of senior VP/strategic marketing officer to Steven Cook, who has 26 years of strategic brand and consumer marketing experience with Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble.

One could legitimately ask, “What does Coke, Procter & Gamble and Samsung’s technology products have in common?” But Cook, who has that wealth of experience and is joining Samsung Oct. 15 to head its marketing efforts for its North American operations, here, sees the similarities.

Cook was approached by Samsung in May, and he noted, “I did a lot of due diligence on Samsung on the competition and on the industry.” What he learned was that Samsung has “high consumer awareness and preference” as well as “great technology,” but as everyone knows, “more players have come into the market and there is more commoditization now than in the past.”

For Cook this is an old story. “In any product category — peanut butter, cosmetics, automobiles or consumer electronics — you eventually are faced with commoditization.” While CE might be faster paced that others Cook feels that the challenge for him and for Samsung is to “define the brand’s intangibles and … build [consumer] affinity.”

He noted the time is right to “bring some of the [marketing] playbook” from his experience on the packaged goods industries he’s dealt with to increase “awareness and preference … and demand. We have to articulate why consumers need our products.”

Cook pointed to wireless phones as “almost becoming consumer packaged goods today.” To get the right look and the most fashionable, up-to-date features handsets have become “almost an annual repurchase even though consumers have to pay [a surcharge] for breaking a longer agreement. I think the time is right to take a new look” at marketing approaches in CE.

As for the Samsung brand specifically, Cook told TWICE, “The brand, the products and [Samsung’s] relationship with retailers is further ahead than its brand equity. What excites me is that the technology pipeline is rich. [And] looking in from outside, Samsung’s retail partnerships are rich. You can see that by just looking at how Samsung is featured in retailers’ flyers and how it’s merchandised” in stores.

When asked about the use of entertainment and sports partnerships in his career and how he views Samsung’s efforts in this area, Cook said, “Being the official HDTV of the NFL is a wonderful way of building traffic for retailers and selling TVs. It is a timely promotion. The Four Seasons of Hope customizes programs for the retailers involved.”

On the customization point, Cook said, “Retailers no longer want national programs for all — if you went to leading retailers that way, you’d be laughed out of their offices. Retailers want [marketing] programs that can be customized” to their needs and the brand’s needs.

What Cook’s challenge will be with Samsung will be to take a brand “with a rich pipeline of technology and move it from a preference” brand to a “got to have it” brand.