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Why Samsung would be crazy to kill the Galaxy Note brand
There are a lot of claims being made currently about why Samsung should kill off the “tainted” Galaxy Note brand and move on. Suggestions include killing the line entirely and simply adding an S Pen to a Galaxy S8 Edge+ (or whatever) next year, to simply slapping a different name on what would otherwise be the Galaxy Note 8 and hoping no one notices. But I disagree with both of these notions.
I think that Samsung would be better off weathering the storm, wiping off any remaining mud attached to its Note brand and proving – through a return to form – that the Note line is still one of the premier brands in the smartphone industry.
Samsung has already essentially confirmed it will keep the Note brand in play.
Samsung has already essentially confirmed it will keep the Note brand in play through its Galaxy upgrade program (which included mention of the Note 8) and new research indicates that 70% of Note 7 owners will stick with the company.
This fact alone should be enough to convince Samsung it’s at least worth a shot: you don’t abandon something that took years to build until you know you really have to. Samsung doesn’t know this yet, and won’t until the Note 8 either sinks or swims.
If the research above and the millions of Note 7s still in use weeks after the recall are any indication, Samsung’s woes are short term.
While it may sometimes be better to cut off a limb before gangrene sets in, Note fans are among the most fervent of all smartphone fans, right up there with iPhone ambassadors and dedicated BlackBerry loyalists. Note users have always been incredibly loyal and they are the ones Samsung markets each new Note to. This will be more true than ever next year.
Note users have always been incredibly loyal and they are the ones Samsung markets each new Note to.
The Galaxy Note line in many ways built Samsung’s enduring reputation as a smartphone market leader. It single-handedly introduced the world to the “phablet”, a name that is no longer even necessary because practically all flagship phones are now hovering around the 6-inch mark. That was Samsung’s doing and the success of the Note line is what caused everyone else to follow suit.
No one else has come close to outdoing Samsung where a stylus-equipped smartphone is concerned.
Likewise, the S Pen is one of Samsung’s mightiest weapons. No one else has come close – even vaguely close – of outdoing Samsung where a stylus-equipped smartphone is concerned. Even if the Note series gets abandoned, the S Pen will live on. But simply rebranding would be little more than a pointless and transparent dodge.
The mind of the average consumer is fickle. A brand may be “tainted” now but we eventually move on. Remember Nike’s child labor and sweatshop era? McDonalds’ unhealthy past? Martha Stewart’s fraud and subsequent incarceration? Those brands all survived, and so too will Samsung. The next shiny new must-have smartphone from Samsung will still be a must-have, regardless of the name attached to it (or not).
People move on from scandals, just as they did following the global recall of Tylenol in the early 80s. (In case you weren’t alive then, some nefarious type put cyanide pills in Tylenol bottles and several people died. But you can still buy Tylenol today.)
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No one died because of an exploding Note 7. Sure, there were burns and property damage, but by volunteering a global recall Samsung potentially saved lives. That has to count for something. The company could have just as easily have ignored the news stories and paid out a bunch of money to those affected. With only 100 or so cases reported globally, the bill would have come to a lot less than $5 billion.
Samsung's rushed replacements turned a run-of-the-mill recall into a full-blown scandal.
By recalling the Note 7 globally, Samsung drew attention to the problem and then, when it mistakenly rushed to get replacement Note 7s out before fully identifying and dealing with the cause of the explosions, it turned a run-of-the-mill recall into a full-blown scandal.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Now available in Black. pic.twitter.com/6dFZJ4l0gO— DC (@AppSapp) September 14, 2016
But what is perhaps worse is that the Note 7 has become the subject of internet jokes and memes. This is perhaps the most damaging part of the whole situation. What would otherwise have floated away as last month’s hot tech scandal, grew new legs as the butt of endless jokes and lowest common denominator statements.
What is perhaps worse is that the Note 7 has become the subject of internet jokes and memes.
The GTA V mod exposed gamers to it, airlines blindly blamed all Samsung phones for the problem, the President made fun of the Note 7 in front of reporters, the Reddit/4Chan generation memed it to death and with Halloween right around the corner it couldn’t be a worse time for Note 7-inspired costumes.
But even though the internet kept the fires burning a little longer, so to speak, the internet moves on quickly too. Do we really expect more than the occasional Note 7 meme to reappear after the end of the year? Sure, some consumers will remember something being wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Note and steer clear of it – I never said recovery would be easy – but a much larger number than that will flock to support Samsung’s next Note.
I personally don’t care about the Note 7’s problems. I’m sad my phone had to be shipped back to Samsung and that I won’t get another one until next year. But if a new “safe” one arrived on my doorstep tomorrow I’d absolutely use it. I judge hardware by what it can do in the here and now, not by what its predecessor did.
Take a look at LG’s G series for an example. The G2 was a classic with an outstanding display and excellent battery life. Then the G3 arrived with a sucky display and average battery life. The G4 largely solved the display issues (if not the battery) but suffered bootloop problems. The G5 was a modular mess I avoided entirely but I’ll still approach the G6 with an open mind.
So what if a couple of Galaxy Note 7s exploded? That's a Note 7 problem, not a Note 8 problem and certainly not a Galaxy Note problem generally.
So what if a couple of Galaxy Note 7s exploded? That’s a Note 7 problem, not a Note 8 problem and certainly not a Galaxy Note problem generally. The only way things would get to such a point in my mind is if Samsung had another explosive battery situation with the Note 8. Then I’d nail the coffin shut and bury it under a ton of concrete. But until then the Note brand still has a lot of value tied up in it.
Brand value is comprised of a lot of things, and a brand’s ability to recover after a scandal is equal parts how strong the brand was before the scandal and how it handled the crisis. There is no question that Samsung did the right thing by cancelling the Note 7 and while the recall process has been admittedly sloppy, you try recalling two million smartphones globally and see how easy it is.
Before the Note 7 recall, brand value didn't come much better than the Galaxy Note line.
Before the Note 7 recall, brand value didn’t come much better than the Galaxy Note line and there is a veritable shedload of goodwill stored up for it, thanks to generation after generation of the best Android smartphones around.
Note sales will be leaner for a couple of years, but they’ll recover. A name change won’t make a difference: after all, how many of your non-iPhone owning friends even know the full brand name of their phone?
There’s a reason Samsung sent out messages to S7 and S7 Edge owners reminding them their phones were safe and didn’t need to be returned – because most folks don’t know the difference between a Galaxy S and a Galaxy Note. So ditching the Note brand wouldn’t make much difference.
Most folks don't know the difference between a Galaxy S and a Galaxy Note, so ditching the Note brand wouldn't make much difference.
Samsung just has to be as open and upfront as it possibly can be about the causes of the problem and what it’s going to do to avoid them in the future. This will go a long way to smoothing things over. The apology ad Samsung needs to make – and soon – will be among the most important ads Samsung’s marketing division ever makes.
There’s a reason they have that saying about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If the Note brand is the baby, the bathwater is the tons of cash that setting the record straight is going to cost. Fortunately for Samsung though, it need only turn the tap back on to refill the tub. The baby might still be a little grubby, but that will wear off with time.
Do you think Samsung should keep the Note brand? If they don’t what should they do?