By Matt Chapman, marketingmagazine.co.uk, Thursday, 21 June 2012 11:00AM
Samsung is a brand in the ascendancy. This year it has overtaken Nokia as the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer, and rumours are swirling that Samsung is now considering acquiring the struggling Finnish brand. Only a couple of years ago, such speculation would have been dismissed out of hand.
There is a palpable air of self-confidence within Samsung. Director of corporate marketing Andrew Garrihy explains that the company's ethos is 'nothing is impossible' - a neat reversal of the 'impossible is nothing' strapline of fellow Olympic sponsor Adidas.
It's even fair to say that Samsung is giving Apple a run for its money when it comes to launch hype. Retailer Phones4U has revealed that the Galaxy S III has been its most pre-ordered handset to date, and has been well received by mobile reviewers, too.
When we meet at Samsung's Surrey HQ, Garrihy embodies the brand's self-assurance. Leaning back in his chair and quick to laugh, the Australian's easy-going personality is in marked contrast to the more formal business approach of his Korean bosses.
'Samsung has an energy, drive and passion that I have never experienced anywhere,' he says. 'As a marketer that's incredibly refreshing, and I think is a big part of why Samsung is so successful.'
Nevertheless, Garrihy concedes that sustaining the company's 'drive, passion and boldness' can 'take a bit of getting used to'.
The boom in the Far East begs the question: have British brands lost the verve that is now de rigueur in that region?
'I can't speak for British companies, but, from my observations, potentially some of them have,' says Garrihy. However, he is quick to add that there is 'a real groundswell in Britain right now toward that "best of British" attitude and what can be achieved'.
With the Diamond Jubilee over and the bunting, mostly, packed away, attention is shifting to London 2012. As the athletes psych themselves up for the competition, the Olympics' official sponsors are cranking up their marketing activity in a bid to secure a decent return on their massive investments.
To handle the increased Olympic workload, Garrihy has taken on more than 20 freelance marketing staff to assist his 35-strong team. This enlarged department has no shortage of projects to work on due to Samsung's diverse product range, which spans mobile, TV, digital imaging, white goods, IT and B2B.
'Some divisions need more support than others, but my time goes where it is needed. Our biggest division right now is mobile and TV, but we have others, such as white goods, growing really quickly,' he explains.
Marketing is well represented within the company: Garrihy sits on the UK and Ireland board and reports directly to managing director Andy Griffiths.
According to Garrihy, marketing is acknowledged as a critical driver of business. 'We are absolutely leading in design and innovation and it is highly recognised that marketing plays a critical role in getting products to market and making a connection with both customers and consumers,' he says.
This strong internal backing of marketing could explain why critics claim Samsung is guilty of 'buying' market share - an accusation Garrihy denies: 'Our investment is in line with our market share and leadership.'
As an official Olympic sponsor - it is a worldwide partner - Samsung will have carte blanche to advertise throughout the Games. With non-sponsors likely to hold back on activity for fear of being lost in the clutter (research from Liberum Capital predicts the TV ad market will be down about 5% in August as non-sponsors stay off-screen), the brand is hopeful of deriving similar returns to those from Beijing 2008.
Sunny Hwang, vice-president and head of global sports marketing at Samsung, told Marketing in April that its share of the mobile market in China doubled from 11% to 21% as a direct result of its Beijing sponsorship.
For Garrihy, there is even more at stake this time around. '(This) will be the most digital and social Games ever, and the perfect fit with Samsung technology to enable people to take part like never before.'
Despite the rhetoric, however, the ticketing fiasco and stringent regulations put in place to protect the sponsors tell a different story.
On the day of this interview, a story broke in the Daily Mail about a florist in Stoke being told to take down a display using the Olympic rings to avoid being sued by Coca-Cola.
Garrihy defends such actions, responding briefly that restrictions enforced by LOCOG are 'not at all' over-zealous, before this line of questioning is closed down by Samsung's otherwise largely silent PR representative.
Samsung is also sponsoring the torch relay as part of its Olympics package, which allows it to put forward 1360 people as torchbearers.
Among these is Garrihy's boss, Griffiths, who will carry the torch through Hounslow on 24 July - another development that has drawn the ire of the Daily Mail.
Despite the controversies, Samsung takes the stance that the Olympics is a vehicle for good work. An example of this is its Hope Relay legacy project, through which it donates £1 to charities such as Kids Company for every mile logged on the Hope Relay app.
'This is the biggest legacy project for us,' says Garrihy. 'There are other potential projects in the pipeline, but anything we do will continue to focus on children.'
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was brought in to launch the relay, while David Beckham is also playing an ambassadorial role in Samsung's London 2012 activity.
Garrihy denies that Samsung's growing use of celebrities is a shortcut to achieving its goal of becoming an aspirational brand. Instead, he says celebrities are used only where there is a 'natural' connection. 'David is a well-respected athlete in his field, also passionate about technology, and has inspired numerous kids around the world to do the absolute best they can in their sport.'
Though Oliver will be kept on beyond the Olympics to advertise its white goods, Samsung has yet to decide whether to retain Beckham. 'We will have a look at that at the close of the Olympics and, if the fit is right and the need is there, we may well do it,' says Garrihy.
The 'need' he refers to is Samsung's aspirational ambition. 'We have market-leading products with more design awards than anyone else, we've filed more patents than anyone else and are now focusing on making sure our brand gets the same recognition.'
As a result, Samsung is now focusing its marketing on becoming a top five brand in the world by 2020, in accordance with Interbrand's Best Global Brands scale. It currently sits in 17th place, the spot Apple held before it jumped to eighth place in the latest rankings.
Garrihy will not be drawn into commenting on Apple, but unleashes a veiled attack on the brand when discussing Samsung devices. '(Consumers) want to, without effort, be able to get access to things, people, pictures, music and movies we love on any device at any time, without being locked into a single ecosystem. That's what Samsung can do.'
To make good on this ambition, Samsung has launched a Music Hub, where users of mobile devices can buy or stream music from a catalogue of 19m songs. It has also launched a Video Hub and a Games Hub. Meanwhile, sharing of photos is being encouraged through a promotion integrated into the Samsung Galaxy SIII mobile via a partnership with cloud storage service Dropbox.
These are prime examples, says Garrihy, of why Samsung should no longer be seen as a pure-play hardware company. 'Our heritage is in hardware, but I wouldn't class (us in this way) any more,' he adds. 'Samsung is making big investments in customer experience, services and connectivity around the world.'
Garrihy claims the brand's UK operation is at 'the cutting edge' of this push as it is home to its European headquarters, quality assurance and a research centre.
Samsung's drive to be seen as a leader in hardware, and now in digital entertainment, plus its strength of ambition, means he will not be able to rest on his laurels.
It is certainly a far cry from Garrihy's former job as a mortgage salesman - even if it falls just slightly short of his early dreams of becoming a rock star.
Various roles rising to senior consumer segment manager, National Australia Bank (1989-2004)
Contract consultant, Performance Integrity (2004-05)
Various roles, rising to head of consumer strategy and go to market, Vodafone Australia (2005-08)
Head of proposition development and marketing planning, rising to global head of marketing, Vodafone Global Marketing (VIS) (2008-11)
Director of corporate marketing, Samsung UK & Ireland (2011-present)
Lives Wandsworth, South London.
Hobbies 'I don't get time for hobbies. It used to be singing - I'm a trained vocalist and sang an eclectic mix, everything from theatre to rock. I tried to be a rock star for a while, but trust me, you won't find the band [on Google].'
Post-Olympics plans 'I'm looking forward to a long holiday.'
Favourite brand Virgin.
Samsung is entering the independent arts and music sectors through a series of films and a social-media campaign to showcase the 'creative potential' of its Galaxy Note device.
The first film in the 'Breakfree' series, which broke last week, features 'guerrilla' textile artist Olek travelling the UK in a knitted taxi and adorning landmarks with colourful knitted items. This included pink knitwear on Anthony Gormley's Another Place 'iron-men' sculptures in Merseyside, an act that hit the headlines last month, before Samsung's involvement became public.
The second film shows musician Mike Skinner of The Streets working with hip-hop group Man Like Me to help them achieve mainstream success, with a track to be released this month.
The films, created by Jam, will be hosted on a dedicated YouTube page and seeded elsewhere. Samsung will also run a Twitter competition asking followers to tweet about moments when they have 'broken free' from everyday life.
Q1 2012 pre-tax profits: £3.48bn
Year-on-year increase: 87%
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk