It’s not the Galaxy S4 rivals are scared of, it’s the marketing budget

As predicted the internet went wild as Samsung unveiled its latest flagship handset, the Galaxy S4, at a glitzy event in New York. While the phone itself is certainly an improvement on its predecessor, it’s the marketing push behind it that will prove to be the mega blockbuster.

Lara O'Reilly

The marketing onslaught already began way ahead of launch, with the brand posting a series of teaser videos and graphics and even “leaks” online to build up excitement ahead of the big day.

And the big day certainly was big – it made Apple’s signature events look like a morning coffee meeting about paper by comparison. Samsung’s announcement was held at the humungous Radio City Music Hall, with the overspill crowd herded towards Times Square, where the company had erected an equally massive billboard. The day before, Samsung also assembled a smartly-dressed flash mob to perform for the New York City masses.

Of course it will be the next few days, weeks and months where Samsung really flexes its marketing muscle. Samsung spent about $401m to market its products in the US alone last year, compared with the $333m spent by Apple, according to Kantar Media.

Samsung will continue spending heavily on marketing in 2013 – it’s a strategy that helped the company overtake Nokia to become the biggest phone manufacturer in the world in 2012 and register record profit throughout the year.

Kantar predicts Samsung will spend $150m in advertising the S4 alone globally this year, compared with the $108m spent by Apple on marketing the iPhone 5.

Geoff Blaber, mobile device software research lead at CCS Insight, says its Samsung’s forthcoming “unrivalled” marketing campaign that will “deeply concern” the competition, rather than the actual device itself.

Soon Samsung is set to once again dominate the majority of TV ad breaks, billboards, online display, print and more with renewed vigour stemmed from the success of the far-reaching S3 campaign. While the company has not yet revealed full marketing plans for the S4, the early strapline “life companion” and videos aren’t necessarily the most creative but they’ll certainly be the biggest.

Its rivals – particularly those competing with Samsung on the Android operating system – simply don’t have the spare cash to compete.

HTC and LG both used the Samsung launch event to take aim at its deep pocketed rival by running tactical activity in New York. HTC sent out a “stream team” handing out money-off flyers to spectators and offering them the opportunity to try out its new One handset, while LG placed a photobomb-like billboard stating “LG Optimus G is here 4 you now!” directly above Samsung’s own in Times Square. However, both shots will prove to be akin to using a bottle of water in an attempt to douse a forest fire.

Throwing money at a product and hoping some of it sticks is never a rule marketers should look to abide by, but the sheer enormity of Samsung’s marketing budget coupled with its clever PR engineering to build anticipation and ensure consumers believe every new product really is the best smartphone in the market and the only alternative to the iPhone, means the brand is once again on a one-way road to success with the S4.

The smartphone market is no longer a battle to build the best device, it’s a battle to shift the most available funds across to marketing.

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