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.


  1. I broadly disagree with any patent battles getting to ridiculous levels (like rounded corners, pull for refresh etc) which are quite basic; however I disagree with your inference that Samsung is mostly the same as Apple and hence buy Samsung at a cheaper price.

    I will not classify an iPad/GalaxyTab or a high-end smart phone buyer as a VFM seeker; brand loyalties are not insignificant in such buying decisions. Till this point, the Android(or Samsung) vs iOS (or Apple) fight was going at a comparative basis on a same level. The verdict, how much ever flawed, would raise Apple one pedestal above Android/Samsung and analytical condescension on future comparisons cannot be ruled out if marketing efforts are not boosted by Samsung/Google.

  2. I think you misunderstood the point of the article. The inference that "Samsung is the same as Apple" is not mine, but are real consumer reactions to the headlines.

    And I disagree that a specific type of buyer does not look at VFM. Every buyer looks at VFM, it's just that his definition of V is different. Someone might pay a lot for an Apple product because it's "cool" to own one. That's their definition of value.

    The point is that a few consumers (typically at the high end of the market) or ones already leaning one way or another could be affected by the "copycat" image for sure. But the unaware consumer seems to think it equates the two. We all know the awareness levels of the broader market.

  3. To add on to my point, the problem for Samsung would begin if their prices (on average) got to a comparable level as Apple's, at which point the VFM for a buyer looks better with an Apple product (trusted brand, etc.).

    This is the biggest reasons for Samsung's already wildly different success rates in the smartphone & tablet market.

  4. I agree the definition of "V" would vary but would be omnipresent. At the same time, if anyone is proficient enough to track such a court case, he can't be termed "unaware".

    The bottom-line, in my view, is that post this judgment, Samsung/Android will have to take more marketing efforts than Apple and not the other way round.

  5. no one likes a copy cat

  6. The quotes weren't from people who tracked the case. They were from people who just saw the headline. And by the quotes (Samsung's iPad), it's fairly obvious they were quite unaware.

    Agree to disagree on the second point I guess. I don't think either party would have to make more of a marketing effort. It's just that Apple has to make sure this doesn't stick in the media too long and get them to focus on the upcoming launch instead. Because this trial will go on for years.

  7. Also, I have heard numerous comments about how stupid Apple's patents are and how they are just trying to lower competition. I was very surprised as I thought many would perceive Sammy as the copier but in fact it is Apple being seen as the bad guy!

  8. I agree, Groklaw has some really good legal analysis on this topic. They've been tracking this trial throughout. I followed their analysis of the Google-Oracle trial as well and they were spot on.

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