27 Aug 2012

Apple-Samsung Verdict: Who Won the Marketing Battle?

iPhone vs. Samsung Galaxy

With the first leg of the Apple & Samsung's patent dispute at an end, let's take a look at what impact this could have on the real battle in the marketplace.

While the verdict in favor of Apple is a major loss for Samsung, this is only the beginning of legal maneuvers in this case. With Google's long-awaited entry into the patent fray, and given the contradictory nature of the "Apple vs. Everyone else" verdicts around the globe, there can be only one realistic outcome of the smartphone patents wars - cross-licensing of valid patents. I won't analyse the case and the verdict itself, as that is best left to the experts at Groklaw.

Even though the trial the trial is just beginning, the average consumer has still been exposed to headlines like "Samsung copied Apple". Irrespective of the actual outcome of the case, this would have an impact on consumer mindset and hence, buying patterns as well.

The risk to Samsung is to be perceived as a "copycat". It is fairly obvious that that perception won't really affect the purchasing patterns of consumers who already have their loyalties in place (Apple vs. Android/Samsung), even though they are the ones that care most. But would this affect the purchasing decisions of consumers who don't really have any loyalties? Here are a few quotes heard by Enrique Gutierrez, chief technology officer of Digithrive, after the verdict was plastered all over newspapers:

Quote 1:
Guy: "Wait, so what they're saying is, Samsung is the same as Apple?"
Friend: "I know, right? Makes me think twice about how much I paid for my Mac Book"
Guy: "Seriously"

Quote 2:

Husband: "... Samsung's iPad is the same as Apple's iPad, and I paid how much for the Apple one? Honey, I told you they were a ripoff", after looking up the Samsung tablet on his iPhone.
Wife: "Oh wow," looking at the screen, "... that's a lot cheaper. Think we can return it?"

At the end of the day, the average consumer's buying decision boils down to 3 words - Value for Money. The only thing that differs is how each consumer defines value - brand, features, etc. Most average consumers were of the opinion that Apple's products are the best that money can buy. But all of a sudden, based exclusively on headlines, consumers begin to form the opinion that "Samsung is the same as Apple", thereby elevating the Samsung brand. At that point, a PR loss begins to look like an advertising win.

Conclusion - At the end of the day, in the battle of public perception, Apple has a lot more to lose than Samsung. While the trial continues, Apple would be smart to divert the public's attention away from the trial and towards product launches or other marketing initiatives. Luckily, the iPhone 5 launch isn't too far away.