How Samsung channelled Wes Anderson, Jeff Goldblum and timeless Swedish style

‘Life Unstoppable: House of Surprises’ is a surprisingly watchable 45-minute product showcase that aims to position the brand as making invaluable contributions to the home in both style and function.

Samsung: Benjamin Braun introduces the show
Samsung: Benjamin Braun introduces the show

While everyone’s experience of the pandemic was different, one thing that has united almost the whole population of the UK, and many other countries, has been the amount of time we have all spent at home over the past two years.

Even as freedom creeps back, there has been a permanent shift in our expectations of life – research this year from the Foresight Factory found that across Europe, half (49%) of adults intended to keep working from home some of the time, while a quarter (24%) planned to cook from scratch more and 28% planned to clean their homes more regularly.

Those intentions provide a ripe opportunity for Samsung, which – in case you weren’t aware – makes fridges, washing machines, ovens and vacuum cleaners, alongside its better-known smartphones and TVs.

To make the most of the moment, the brand has now launched “Life Unstoppable: House of Surprises”, a 45-minute product showcase film-cum-interactive digital experience that showcases all its latest and most advanced products by way of a virtual tour around a stunningly designed home occupied by a curious family, the Unstoppables.

It follows last year’s “Life Unstoppable”, which took more of a game-based approach, and once again features Samsung Europe chief marketing officer Benjamin Braun opening the show – this time taking up his outfit a notch with a yellow bow tie – before handing over to various Samsung colleagues to talk through how the family incorporate Samsung products into their home.

Samsung once again worked with Smyle, this time alongside Cheil, the agency part-owned by Samsung, on the experience. The film was directed by Jel Groman at Free Turn, with the script by PR agency FleishmanHillard UK.

Speaking to Campaign, Braun said the “Life Unstoppable” positioning was inspired by one of the most famous lines in Hollywood: “life finds a way”, as spoken by Jeff Goldblum in 1993’s Jurassic Park.

While Goldblum’s character Dr Ian Malcolm was talking about the potential for a supposedly all-female group of dinosaurs to reproduce, Samsung applied the thinking to how people have adapted and found ways to thrive under recent exceptional circumstances.

“'Life Unstoppable' is ‘life always finds a way’,” he says. “In 18 months with three kids, schools closed, both my wife and I are working from home, and we are very similar to many, many other people. But life still finds a way, and I think through 'Life Unstoppable', we've been able to show that people are investing in their homes, schools.”

Braun shares an anecdote of the daughter of someone he knows who recently had her bat mitzvah (the Jewish confirmation ceremony), and the remarkable technological setup used by the synagogue to livestream the event to the large number of people unable to attend in person, due to continuing Covid restrictions.

“I'm a father of three young kids, I live in London,” Braun adds. “My office is next to Heathrow Airport, if I'm not travelling to somewhere in Europe or Korea, the fact that I could take my daughter to nursery every morning is absolutely brilliant – I couldn't do that before Covid. So there is some silver lining in this very dark, Corona sky.”

The film was shot in a “massive hangar” in Didcot, near Oxford, and stands out because of its visual style, which pairs Samsung’s products with tasteful interior design. Braun says there were “a couple of different inspirations to it”, but mentions the Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel, which appears to have provided this production with its “planimetric staging” – meaning the camera is angled at exactly 90 degrees to the back wall of the shot.

When it came to choosing Samsung team members to appear in the film, “ we were very particular with making sure that we picked people who are the future of Samsung”, Braun says. “What you will see are younger people, not old people like me who are presenting – they're the future and also they're closer to Gen Z and millennials. They are the future customers.”

He adds: “We're trying to shift our image a little bit because, enough of this old-style presentation, where you have someone go up on the stage and speak for an hour” (a description that calls to mind somewhat a certain rival smartphone manufacturer). “As we innovate our products, we need to innovate our presentation format as well.”

When Campaign speaks to Braun over Microsoft Teams, he’s dressed in a Harry Potter jumper with a Gryffindor crest – surely an appropriate choice as it seems inevitable the confident and colourful marketing leader would be sorted into the same house as Harry, Ron and Hermione.

In his intro to the film, though, Braun is dressed in a jacket from H&M, the retail giant that originates in his native Sweden – and he acknowledges that the minimalistic design associated with his home country and increasingly revered worldwide in recent years has been an inspiration for him.

“Of course I'm influenced by my upbringing,” he says. “I like simple, clean designs. Generally, it's [the] typical Scandi design approach. Scandinavian airports are brilliant. I think they're beautiful, it's just metal, glass, metal, glass and wood.”

One idea featured in the film calls to mind another famous Swedish brand. Samsung’s Bespoke fridges, which have a modular design, allowing owners to expand the devices to meet their changing needs, are also available with a series of striking artistic panel designs, following a contest held with design publication Wallpaper*.

It is somewhat reminiscent of the approach taken over the years by Absolut vodka, which Braun has another connection to: in his previous role as Audi UK’s chief marketing officer, his agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, also worked on the Pernod Ricard-owned spirit brand.

When he says he has “drunk some Absolut vodka in my days, especially when I was young” and thinks the brand’s marketing is “brilliant”, Braun denies it being a source of inspiration for the fridges.

But he does say: “Maybe the products are utilitarian… but if you look at our designs, you take any of our products, they're becoming real aesthetical masterpieces. They need to be visible in our living rooms and in our bedrooms and kitchens.

“I think in terms of product design, we are doing quite a lot of exciting stuff. But, listen, to reach people you have to be creative, you have to find new ways of telling stories, because we're in marketing and brand and PR. We're storytellers.”