Samsung’s CMO on why ‘not being tech savvy’ is an advantage

Despite working at one of the world’s biggest tech brands, global CMO YH Lee believes her background in consumer goods has helped the brand shift its marketing focus from product back to the customer.

Samsung Galaxy 8

It may seem odd that marketing a company at the forefront of driving innovation through technology is overseen by a self-confessed “analogue” marketer. However, according to Samsung Electronics’ global CMO YH Lee this is a distinct advantage.

Lee says her background in consumer goods at L’Oréal and UniIever helps her take a more customer-orientated view at a company that has arguably become more focused on product. She is happy to ask the “stupid questions”, she adds.

“I’m not at all technologically savvy – I’m more analogue,” she says. “[Not having a technology background] has helped me to differentiate myself and talk and behave as a consumer.”

She appreciates that if she doesn’t get something then customers won’t either, so she takes all the “difficult technology” Samsung has developed and interprets it for everyone using “very basic consumer language”.

Lee was speaking to Marketing Week following a presentation she and Samsung Electronics’ US CMO Marc Mathieu gave on “humanising the brand” at the World Federation of Advertisers recent Global Marketer Week.

They shared how Samsung is refocusing its innovation and communications from technology-first to customer-first. This is illustrated in its current ‘Human Nature’ campaign, which uses the strapline ‘Do What You Can’t’ and highlights how its products document and help people overcome odds.

Mattieu, despite a similar background in FMCG at Unilever and Coca-Cola, is known for his embrace of emerging technology – he was named one of the “most tech-savvy” CMOs earlier this year by AdWeek. However, a “passion for technology” should not trump customer insight, he tells Marketing Week.

“For me, you have to love the kind of products we sell in order to be a good marketer. One of the things that helped me a lot after I left Coca-Cola [was working at a] startup for two-and-a-half years, which was all about social purpose, but it put me into that world of looking at technology from the user’s perspective.“

Despite the shift in marketing communications strategy to reflect current customer needs, Samsung is still a technology company focused on what’s next as much as what’s now.

Both are excited about the pace of change in technology and agree it is part of their job to help people understand and embrace advancements.

Mathieu says: “We are going to see a drastic change and I’m of the camp that says those fears that we have are going to go away. There is always going to be fears, every progress comes with pros and cons, with opportunities and risks, and there is always going to be people that are going to use it for the worst not for the better.

“At TED one of the things that amazed me was the topic of ethics was systematically discussed alongside each technology innovation that was presented. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence get embraced. And our job is to make it easy for people to embrace it.

READ MORE: Samsung looks to a ‘new frontier’ of mobile intelligence

“I always say, marketing or brands is about helping deal with their fears and inspire them. Because we believe that all those technologies are good for people and we design them to be so, it’s our job to make people understand it and buy into it.”

Lee adds she is “very excited” at the prospect of Samsung devices and services being fully connected “without any hassle and difficulties”.

“Thinking of this makes me excited, and also how to democratise this technology like cyber film, but it will come along very naturally to our life. We won’t be able to live without it one day and then we’ll make it very naturally flowing to our lives. That’s our vision and that’s the job of marketing a technology company,” she says.

“It’s not very far away. By 2020 we at Samsung announce that everything we produce will be connected. From our refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, mobiles, TVs will talk to each other and automatically do everything.“