Samsung’s ability to communicate their brand in the wake of failure and negative publicity

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Samsung is currently in a situation where it has to navigate its brand through continuous negative publicity. Just recently, the company’s involvement in a bribery case that resulted in the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye has led to the arrest of Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics. This news, on top of exploding phones and malfunctioning washing machines adds another blight to South Korea’s biggest brand. However, despite Samsung being overwhelmed with scandal after scandal, it continues to recover. Even now, two Samsung executives have taken responsibility for the latest scandal and have offered to resign from their positions. Thus giving Samsung a little reprieve from their latest issue to their brand. Furthermore, Samsung share in the Asian market continues to grow. How is it that Samsung continues to withstand such failures and negative publicity?

To begin with, Samsung is quick to admit fault and beg forgiveness. For whatever reason, Confucius ideals, nationalism, pride, Samsung does not try to hide its failures. They try to remedy the problem immediately, such as attempting to replace phones once they discovered their phones were exploding. Once the backup phones started exploding, Samsung made an immediately recall and offered full refunds. It is important to note that for a lot of companies, this would a deathblow to the brand. However, Samsung’s product range is extremely diverse, from producing military equipment to owning sports clubs. Their integration across all spectrums allows them to continue prospering despite failure in one chain of their brands.

It is also important that Samsung is one the historic “chaebols” in South Korea. A chaebol is a large business conglomerate, usually family owned, and these business have historic ties to the South Korean government going back to South Korean president Park Chung-hee. In essence, chaebols such as Samsung, of which it is the most prominent, area representation of South Korean success and are often a source of nationalistic pride. They are not supposed to fail. They are the embodiment of South Korean industrialization and played a key role in developing new industries, markets, and export production that turned South Korea into an economic powerhouse. In fact, during the Asian Financial Crisis, chaebols were able to roll over loan after loan, as they were deemed “too big to fail.” Even despite recent regulation, chaebols still act in an almost monopolistic manner.

Needles to say, not all companies can have such government support, but the growth of Samsung and its diverse integration is a blueprint for how a business should expand and prepare for eventual failures. Despite their phone failures, they are still one of the biggest brands in the world, and they refuse to be held back. They have continued their R&D and are already preparing to launch a new phone that has already begun generating considerable buzz the smartphone arena. In the long run, it seems that Samsung will come out no worse for wear… just as they always have.

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Considerations for International Marketing Communications

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On the international level, marketing communications must be handled with extreme care. Context is key, and context between cultures with opposing sentiments it is paramount. An organization must understand that its actions do not exist in a vacuum, and its approach must be tempered with an understanding of the foreign country’s macro environment. Social, cultural, political, environmental, economic, and ethical considerations should lay the groundwork for any communication strategy.

The choice of media should take into account a number of factors stemming from the macro environment of the country in question. For one, what media channels currently exist, in what frequency, and what types could be created? For example, local legislation may forbid the use of particular services, such as certain social media platforms in China. Regarding current channels, What, if any, type of competition exists? Additionally, What local resources can be co-opted for the organization’s purposes?

Out of the macro-environmental influencers listed previously, grasping the local culture can be the most elusive. Carl Jung & Kenneth Burke both stipulate that human beings convey meaning through symbol systems. The issue is, symbols do not hold a universal definition. They are imbued with meaning by our hand. Language, itself, is the best example of this. The shear number of dialects that exist – each with its own system for the construction and transmittance of meaning – is daunting. In order to communicate effectively, nothing must be lost in translation.

When it comes to international marketing, choice of media is key, especially with the diffusion of information through various channels of distribution. We will tackle how each method of digital, social, and traditional media has been used successfully and unsuccessfully through our analysis of various international marketing campaigns. We will also compare and contrast how companies run their campaigns for a single product based on whether the campaigns have to vary by nation or regional targeting. While making their campaign decisions, companies must also factor in the 4 Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Promotion, and Placement, when communicating their product or services in a given country, across different cultures, behaviors, and beliefs, and we hope to analyze the degree of application each of these factors in communicating an international marketing campaign in order to create enough noise that provides success and positive feedback. We understand that implementation of a successful marketing campaign may be vastly different, depending on the country. Therefore, we hope to compare and contrast various campaigns and their use of communication strategies and media, with the intention of presenting the readers of this blog with information that they can extrapolate for use in a successful international marketing campaign.

Joseph Naidoo and Andres Vaca are MBA students at Chapman University. If you have any issue as to the validity of the information that is presented in their blog, your complaints can be sent to

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Failure Communication In International Markets

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Marketing to an international market is a very crucial step when you are entering a new country with different culture. Localization to that new market should be done carefully otherwise you might offend the target market. We learned from Disneyland Hong Kong how their lack of localization and the inability to understand the Chinese consumer offended the people which lead to a lot of people outside the park on the Chinese new year’s day with a valid tickets.

A study done on Fortune 500 companies found that those who do localization such as translation to the target international market are twice as likely to see increased profits and 1.25 times more likely to generate increased earnings per share.

Here are some of the failed attempts company did in international markets:


  • KFC introduced their “Finger-Lickin Good” in China which was a failed marketing attempt because people did not understand it and it was translated in a funny way “Eat Your Fingers off”.

  • When Coca-Cola entered the China Market, they named their product something that when pronounced, sounded like, “Coca-Cola”. But the problem was that when they wrote it with the chinese charcters it meant “Bite the Wax Tadpole” which they change after they found out to “Happiness in the Mouth”

  • In Italy, a campaign for Schwepps Tonic Water translated the name into “Schwepped Toilet Water”

  • In Spain, Coors Brewing Company translated their slogan “Turn it loose” to “Suffer from diarrhea”

  • Fiat released an ad in Italy with actor Richard Gere driving one of Fiat new cars, Richard Gere is hated in China because he support the Dalai Lama. People reacted to this commercial in China.

  • Garber, the baby food company, when they started selling food in Africa, they used the same label with the cute baby as the one in the US. In Africa companies usually put pictures of whats inside the package since not everyone can read which people was confused on what it is.

  • When Pepsi introduce their drinks in China, they launched a slogan that says “Pepsi brings you back to life” but they found out that it translates into ” Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.



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Consideration when Doing Business in China

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China is a country of tremendous opportunities, and at the same time it’s a country of equal challenges. China has the second largest economy in the world. The implications of that would be by designing products to match that market. Aspects of the design of products should be designed not by the needs of Americans or British but by Chinese needs. The larger the market the larger the standards, and that’s a big issue. I disagree with the statement that  “China is a market of 1.3 billion consumers”.

China is huge country however in terms of its market consumers this number may be lower. When we measure customers in markets the main aspect is for them are to be qualified and have a certain level of income. China is a very unequal society; purchasing consumer products are concentrated in the coastal city areas.

China is a single country, but the question is does it function like a single market? In theory yes, but in reality it doesn’t.  It is very important to understand people habits from different areas in China since it is a huge country and then design products that match these differences. As an example: in the case of Yum china, KFC company opened the same restaurant around the whole country, but had to localize some flavors to match people’s liking based on their preferences and since consumer tastes differ in each area. It is also important to understand the purchasing power in each of these areas. Five major cities have the highest GDP per capita that are not in the same tier or horizon that I believe companies should enter this markets since they will have a bigger opportunity to grab a bigger market share. The cities are:

1- Shenzhen (Horizon 2): GDP per Capita 51.1

2- Shanghai (Horizon 3): GDP per Capita 45.2

3- Beijing (Horizon 2): GDP per Capita 39.4

4- Xiamen (Horizon 2): GDP per Capita 38.2

5- Changsha (Horizon 2): GDP per Capita 31.4

From the numbers above we can see that the largest GDP per capita is among the cities located in horizon 2. Which means consumer consumption would be more attractive in those areas.

One of the main challenges that China will need to resolve is the Intellectual property protection, and non-innovative labor. When there is no property protection and non-innovation, this creates a big issue. Any product can be copied and anything can be added to the technology of that product. As an example: the iPhone, you can easily find an iPhone knockoff with a different software. This issue is not new to the world, the US and British went through this stage, in the textile industry. The Chinese market is different, it is very price competitive, and with the non-protection of intellectual property the problem increases.


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Coca-Cola’s Creative International Marketing Approach

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Coca-Cola has been successful in building a global empire that surpasses all other brands in the beverage industry. When marketing your business internationally, you need to think out of the box. In this post we will be discussing some of the marketing strategies that we can learn from Coca-Cola’s international marketing experience.


It’s a wonder how Coca-Cola makes sales in over 200 countries across the globe with a 94% recognition rate. They do this by personalizing their products. To sell your product internationally, you have to localize the product for the targeted audience.

A genius interactive advertising by Coke in Australia added 150 of the most popular names to the phrase “Share a Coke with…….” on branded t-shirts. This led people to share happiness by searching for people wearing t-shirts with their names or a friend’s name while walking on the streets or in shopping malls.

Not only does Coke personalize stuff quite literally, but they also run programs around the globe to lend a hand to the needy in society. In its Global Sustainability Report (2011-2012), Coca-Cola stated that it sponsored nearly 300 nutrition and physical activity programs in 115 nations worldwide.



Create a global brand:

Coca-Cola realized the one thing that everyone wants, regardless of their age, religion and origin. They realized we all look for Happiness! Coke markets itself as a distributor of happiness. Their consistent brand strategy relates well with all its consumers worldwide. Slogans like “Enjoy” & “Open Happiness” are easy to sell globally and endure a lifetime.

Maximize on Internationally recognized activities and holidays:

Coca-Cola has also realized that people have a sense of togetherness and friendliness during international celebrations. These act as a perfect platform to advertise and engrave Coke’s products as an essential part of family, togetherness and oneness. Coca-Cola never misses to splash billions of dollars in advertisements during Christmas and the Football World Cup.



The promise of a better tomorrow:

What do we all aspire for? A better tomorrow of course! This is one more reality that Coca-Cola capitalizes on to put a spell on all of us. Coke’s Egyptian TV advertisement “Make Tomorrow Better”  is based on Coke’s classical marketing strategy of the promise of a brighter future that has been associated with many of its previous commercials for decades. The ad is relevant to the famous Arab uprisings. In this Egyptian setting, the commercial shows a gloomy and gray Tahrir Square. The citizens literally open up the clouds and make the sun shine once more. The Coke brand creates a promise of happiness and optimism.

Though we all don’t have the same resources as Coca Cola to accomplish all this, we learn that research, creativity and sticking to one’s brand will make a positive impact on our businesses.



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