About fifteen years ago I was interviewed by a Korean television station which was examining Samsung’s plans to become a world force in consumer electronics. It’s difficult to imagine in 2012, but in 1997 Samsung was pretty much a no-name brand, or at best third-tier, in many parts of the world. I received one question which sticks in my mind: “When do you think Samsung can become a major global brand?” And I remember my answer fairly well: “It will take at least five years to become globally recognised, but leadership may be possible within ten.”
Our latest ConsumerMetrix Bulletin demonstrates just how dramatically successful Samsung’s strategy has been. Samsung is now the most preferred technology brand in every single market, age group and income bracket included in our survey. To be fair, it only just scrapes in as number one in the highest income groups, where it is in a very close race with Apple and Sony. But there’s no doubt that Samsung’s strength is its appeal across all consumer segments.
Samsung’s number one position may surprise some people, given the enormous commercial success of one of its key rivals, Apple. From general media coverage, which Apple is clearly expert at managing, it might be assumed that Apple is streets ahead of any competitor. But our survey shows that while Apple certainly is a powerhouse with younger and more affluent consumers, its appeal is more limited with other segments. Since most of Apple’s competitors would swap financial statements in the blink of an eye, this does appear to raise the question: does overall brand preference actually matter? It clearly doesn’t offer the whole story for a comprehensive competitive analysis, but we do believe it offers valuable guidance on future consumer decisions and overall brand value.
Apple’s success is even more recent than Samsung’s, having begun only with the launch of the iPod ten years ago, and even then its rise began slowly. It could be that Apple’s trendline is steeper than Samsung’s: if Apple’s preference ratings are growing more rapidly in different segments it may be on course to catch Samsung at some point in the future. We will be conducting further analysis of our ConsumerMetrix datasets to establish some guidance on these issues.