Pros and Cons of Samsung’s Selfie Stunts

Samsung selfies

It was the selfie seen around the world.

Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie took the internet by storm, setting a record for most retweets. It was one of those great cultural moments shared by nearly everyone thanks to everyone. Then Samsung, whose device was used to capture the moment, claimed that they were behind it.

Several weeks later, President Obama hosted the World Champion Boston Red Sox at the White House. Slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz took a selfie with the President on his Samsung device that grabbed social media’s attention as a special moment. It was later revealed that Ortiz had signed an “social insider” deal with Samsung a few weeks before and again the company again branded a seemingly spontaneous event.

Samsung strategically and creatively capitalized on the selfie trend. It was a bold, clever move to place its devices in the hands of celebrities and leverage personal (or seemingly personal) content to promote the brand. As with any bold move though, there is backlash. For all of the pros, there are cons.

Pro: Owning a moment

With a constant cycle of information and entertainment, creating a moment that causes people to pause and say ‘hey look at that’ is the goal of every social media marketer. Those moments are usually personal in nature and rarely happen with brands attached to them. Samsung created an exception by capitalizing on moments created by celebrities using the company’s devices. The company created cultural significance for themselves, which is necessary in their quest against the cultural icon that is Apple. By utilizing selfies – a cultural phenomenon themselves – the company created instantly relevant and relatable content. With the personal nature of selfies, this content created a stronger personal connection between the celebrity, the audience and Samsung.

Con: Ruining the moment

“Pix or it didn’t happen.” Nowadays, amazing personal moments or encounters are verified on social media by snapping a selfie or just a normal picture. This social proof is taken at face value as authentic. Now that authenticity is somewhat tainted when it comes to brands on social media. Samsung has seemingly hijacked special moments via selfies. People and brands around large events and potential cultural moments will have a heightened awareness for selfie seeking brands. The steps taken will ruin the experience for the average person looking to verify their place in the moment with a selfie. For instance, the White House now seems to be prohibiting people from taking selfies with the President. Sorry Olympians.

Conan's White House Selfie Joke

Pro: A New Level of Celebrity Endorsement

Samsung has been going after Apple’s “it” status for the past couple years by going after Apple fans and head to head comparisons. With the selfies, they are trying to knock the iPhone from its status symbol status by trying to transfer some of that celebrity status to its brand. Plus, celebrities tend to hang around other and sometimes bigger, celebrities who can grab more attention for the brand.

These “social insiders,” armed Samsung devices, documented these moments and provided the company with original and unique content. The selfies provided a level of authenticity to the endorsement with proof that the celebrities actually use the devices. Some may still be skeptical about the authenticity, but everyone knows that Ellen and “Big Papi” weren’t using iPhones.

Con: Celebrities May be Gun Shy with Selfies Now

Usually these guerrilla tactics are used on average people, who, assuming a positive experience, will allow use of their likeness after the fact. But Samsung is using well known celebrities whose likeness is more guarded and in most instances, their paycheck. Their personal brand is now tied to Samsung whether they like it or not. It will be interesting to see what legal issues come from this.

Will unsuspecting celebrities sue Samsung for unauthorized use of their likeness? Athletics could be particular interesting. Say a Nike sponsored athlete takes a selfie with an Adidas sponsored athlete back stage at the ESPY’s and Nike pulls a Samsung. Are there consequences for the Adidas athlete for essentially appearing in a Nike ad? I have a feeling that those who sign these “social insider” contracts will start to include boundaries.

Pro: Better engagement

Samsung was able to insert itself into big events in a very personal way through these selfies. By combining tactics like real-time marketing, product placement, celebrity endorsement and social media they created connections between people, an event and the brand in a way no other brand has before.

Selfies are personal. Spontaneity, imperfections and moments make them that way. Samsung’s use of selfies was in stark contrast to carefully planned and measured photos and posts normally delivered by brands on social media. They were able to add an additional layer of humanity to their social engagement and people responded.

Con: Further Infiltration from Advertisers Into Daily Lives

“Nothing is sacred anymore” is the typical response to an advertising first like this. People are leery of brand engagement on social media and see it as an invasion of seemingly personal space. Samsung’s stunts take that angst a bit further by turning something very personal – the selfie – and cheapening it. Another seemingly spontaneous cool event turned out to be another advertising stunt.

Our devices have become completely integrated with our daily life, new boundaries will be discovered as advertisers look to take advantage. Advertisers have always looked for ways to be seen by their customers and maintain relevance. That will never change despite people’s best efforts. As technology expands and new trends emerge, so will advertisers’ desire to be a part of it. People just won’t like it.

Now What?

People in business and marketing circles will continue to debate the how much of this was spontaneous or manufactured. No one will debate that Samsung touched on something with this tactic. They discovered a new boundary to cross and no one is quite sure what happens next. It’ll be interesting, and a bit messy.