Affiliate links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.
Just how bad is the Galaxy Note 7 situation for Samsung's brand?
Following the unprecedented step of cancelling the Galaxy Note 7 entirely after battery fires plagued the device and its subsequent, supposedly fixed, replacements, the team at Android Authority weighs in on how serious this situation is for Samsung and just how badly the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco has damaged the company’s image and the Galaxy Note brand.
Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic here, but I don’t see this being any more than a minor speed bump for Samsung in the grand scheme of things. The company has more than enough money and alternate revenue streams to weather the storm and I see no reason why – assuming the Galaxy S8 doesn’t blow up – everyone won’t rush out to buy it just like they initially did with the Note 7. It will take some time, but Samsung Mobile will recover.
Assuming the Galaxy S8 doesn’t blow up, everyone will still rush out to buy it just like they initially did with the Note 7.
The damage to the Note brand will be significant, but not fatal. While I can understand why Samsung “might” decide to kill off the Note brand and release an S Pen-equipped device next year under a different banner, I honestly don’t think a few exploding phones is sufficient to damage the brand beyond repair. Plenty of Galaxy S4’s caught fire a few years back and no one ditched the S Series, Samsung included.
I think letting a multi-billion dollar brand go up in smoke over a few dozen phones that caught fire would be foolish. People forget and consumers move on. Today’s hot technology scandal is tomorrow’s trivia question no one remembers.
If most people consider Android phones to be “Galaxies” are they really that brand-aware?
Many people I know still call Nexus “the Google phone” so I doubt “Galaxy Note” has as much resonance as we might give it credit for. If most people consider Android phones to be “Galaxies” are they really that brand-aware?
I think that as soon as a new high-end Galaxy phone is out that doesn’t blow up, people are still going to want it, no matter what it’s called. For the Note 7 to truly damage Samsung’s branding it would need to negatively impact Samsung’s brand overall, not just the Note series. The real question is just how long folks will wait to see if the next Galaxy is likely to blow up before they inevitably decide to buy it.
Anyone who has studied business, finance or marketing in the UK will have heard of the “Ratner effect”. The phenomenon is named after Gerald Ratner, the CEO of the Ratners group, a major British jewelry retailer with thousands of shops across the country as well as stores in the USA.
In 1991, Ratner gave a speech to the Institute of Directors at the Royal Albert Hall. During the speech he jokingly commented about the low quality of Ratner’s products and as a result the Ratner Group almost went bankrupt.
Damage to brands take a long time to repair and Samsung's real problem now is about branding.
The lesson here is about branding. Damage to brands take a long time to repair. Although the problems with the Note 7 were technical and although the short term effect will be financial losses, the real problem is now about branding.
It won’t take long before consumers start to think negatively about the brand. Next time someone is looking for a smartphone they might steer clear of Samsung, because in the back of their mind there is a nagging thought that Samsung smartphones catch fire.
So Samsung needs to do a lot of work to recover from this. But it has the resources available, so it should be possible. First, it needs to do some PR triage work, then it will need to start restoring consumer confidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see infomercials, articles, adverts and press releases about how Samsung has implemented new quality tests, new procedures, more battery experts etc. It won’t be overt, it will be subtle, but it will be relentless.
Will Samsung kill the Note line completely as a damaged brand? I suspect it will.
After that, Samsung will need to really do an excellent job with the Galaxy S8. I imagine at the moment there are lots of meetings at Samsung about how to make the S8 something very special.
Finally there will be some decision about the Note line. Will Samsung kill it completely as a damaged brand? I suspect it will. Instead of the Note 8, there will be something else, the new Samsung Galaxy <insert-brand-name-related-to-productivity> for 2017.
Usually when we talk about whether someone will go back to buying a brand name, it’s among all of us tech nerds for various reasons. Small flaws or otherwise unpleasant experiences have made waves in the tech enthusiast community, but those rarely ever break that barrier into the mainstream. The local evening news team didn’t report on the LG bootloop issue, or the NVIDIA Shield Tablet recall. These events came and went with the average consumer being none-the-wiser.
The extravagant failure of the Galaxy Note 7 is one of the rare cases to break into mainstream media.
The extravagant failure of the Galaxy Note 7, on the other hand, is an example of when these events break on through to the other side.
Ever since the first Note device burned up, it’s been a gigantic mess. Even if you don’t like Samsung, it’s not the kind of thing that you want to see happen. You want competitors to get a real chance at the title of “most popular Android OEM” by making actually good phones, not because one of Samsung’s most iconic phone lineups crashed and burned like this.
To Samsung’s credit, the company is handling it the right way. They did the global recall and sent out replacements. With the new phones reportedly blowing up, they did the right thing again and just stopped selling them. They’ll take a huge hit for this, but they said that consumer safety came first and they proved they meant it.
Samsung will take a huge hit for this, but they said that consumer safety came first and they proved they meant it.
Not that it’ll score them any points or anything. “Samsung did it right” won’t get as many clicks or views as a more negative point of view, but it is worth mentioning that when push came to shove, Samsung took the phones away instead of riding out the storm. Kudos to them.
In the long term, I think Samsung will be okay. Like Kris said, they have tons of revenue streams out there and, you know, phones that don’t blow up. Next year will be challenging because consumers will be asking, “is this the one that blew up?” However, by 2018 this will all be behind us and Samsung will likely keep on keepin’ on or whatever they decide to do in 2018. RIP, Galaxy Note 7, we hardly knew ye.
It’s a sad day indeed, not necessarily because of 2016’s loss of Samsung’s latest entry in the Note line, but because as users we all got to see the demise of what might have been one of the best phones ever. We usually hesitate to call any one device the ‘best ever,’ let alone the best of the year, but the Note 7 definitely had that kind of hype behind it. And it delivered in a lot of ways. Not only was the Galaxy Note 7 stacked to the rim with features and high-end specifications, but it managed to be just about everything to everyone – the culmination of experimentation that started with the Galaxy S6.
And then, boom.
For the first time ever in my career, a phone simultaneously succeeded and failed to live up to expectations. While the phone itself is one of the best handheld devices of the year, the quality assurance that we had come to expect from Samsung seems to have gone up in smoke. And in order to salvage their reputation, Samsung had to pull the plug. I think that was the right move.
The quality assurance that we have come to expect from Samsung seems to have gone up in smoke.
Users are left with the question of whether or not they should continue to use a device they might have been waiting almost a year for, but the question is no longer a matter of ‘if’ their device will be a problem, but perhaps of ‘when.’
In an article that never quite got constructed, I wanted to equate Samsung to the John Cena of the Android world. It always seems to win and it always seems to have the public’s attention, even when it’s not overtly trying to capture it. But just as it felt like Samsung was resting on its laurels, riding the wave of public perception – incredibly polarizing as it is – it managed to grab our attention with a wonderful offering. And then, an injury.
Samsung will have to work even harder to make the upcoming Galaxy device either more powerful or, perhaps more importantly, more meaningful.
Samsung has to sit on the sidelines for now, but at least it won’t be down for long. Just like John Cena once made a surprise comeback from an injury, Samsung will probably work even harder to make the upcoming Galaxy device either more powerful or, perhaps more importantly, more meaningful.
Until that time, we have a very interesting last bit of 2016 on our hands. With the Note 7 essentially dethroned, it is up to the likes of LG and even Google themselves to pick up momentum and run with it as fast as they possibly can. When the focus shifts from the incumbent to the competition, it only means good things for everyone.
When the focus shifts from the incumbent to the competition, it only means good things for everyone.
To the Samsung faithful, I do think you should sheathe your S Pens and turn off your Note 7 devices. Not just because it might be dangerous for you to continue using them, but because it is important that you explore what else is out there in Android. You just might like what you find. And even if you don’t, you can probably expect that the next Galaxy device could be something desperately spectacular.
I’ll be honest, when Samsung first announced the Note 7 I was pretty wary of it, due to its similarity to the S7 Edge. And then I actually got my hands on one. I became a believer: it was as close to perfect as Samsung had ever been. Then it all went up in smoke – quite literally.
At first, I largely dismissed it as just drama, nothing more than another “gate” that was largely an exaggeration of the real problem. Unfortunately, the situation proved more dire than I had originally believed as the defective device count continued to climb upward.
I knew many friends and co-workers that kept using their Note 7 initially. I was among them for a while, but eventually decided that even if the risk was lower than being struck by lightning, at least according to Samsung’s reports, it was still a risk I didn’t need to take. And so I returned to the Edge, and while I readjusted quickly, I kept hoping for the day my replacement would arrive.
Now that I know it won’t ever come? I’m saddened. Not just because I will never get to use the Note 7 again, but because of the reputational damage this will cause the Note series and Samsung as a whole.
For a while, the Note series and even Samsung itself will be met with suspicion and doubt.
I do believe that consumers are fickle and forget quickly, but at least for the next several months or even into 2017, the Note series and even Samsung itself will be met with suspicion and doubt.
Case in point, in a recent flight last week they were asking for “all Samsung Notes” to be shut off. Not the Note 7, because they didn’t know the difference. While scanning my ticket using my S7 Edge, I was asked by a flight attendant if it was the “new Samsung”. I said “It is, but not that one”, in which many people in line behind me started laughing.
On a recent flight they asked for “all Samsung Notes” to be shut off; not the Note 7, because they didn’t know the difference.
Will Samsung continue the Note line? Maybe, maybe not. It’s too early to say for sure. What I do know is that Samsung has the brand loyalty and financial stability to weather this current storm. I also know that Samsung went through a similar product quality crisis in the mid-90s, which culminated with Kun-hee Lee destroying numerous phones, televisions, and other products in front of his staff to emphasize the importance of quality.
This was a lesson that stuck for well over a decade, and so I’m confident that Samsung can pull through once again and will use the Note 7 as a lesson to better themselves. I also think that the smartphone industry as a whole will grow and learn from the Note 7’s unfortunate fate.
As many of the guys have said, the Galaxy Note 7 was the epitome of a perfect Android smartphone and it could have, arguably, become the most iconic Samsung phone of all time. Now it might just do that yet, but for all the wrong reasons and as Joe mentioned, the Galaxy Note 7 issue passed from tech media to mainstream media, which has a real impact on the average consumer.
The Galaxy Note 7 issue passed from tech media to mainstream media, which has a real impact on the average consumer.
The death of the Galaxy Note 7 is something which pains me as a long-time Galaxy user and having seen the Galaxy Note range evolve, it’s sad that the best Note ever made has met such an untimely demise. Yet, as others have mentioned, Samsung deserves credit for doing exactly what it has done – every company makes mistakes and how you handle them is what truly matters.
If you’re a Galaxy Note 7 user, get it in a box and get it returned to Samsung. They’re being proactive about refunds in the UK as I’ve personally been contacted twice today and I’d assume it’s the same elsewhere. Once you’ve done that, you can always go back to the Galaxy S7 Edge or try out other phones – the LG V20 and Pixel XL are two Android phones that come to mind – and if you’re still missing your Galaxy Note 7, you can expect something incredible (hopefully) in the Galaxy S8.
How severe do you think the aftershocks will be for Samsung? Is this the end of the Note brand?