Introduction and Background
In this study, the role of integrated marketing communications in improving business-to-customer relationships will be explored using Samsung as a case study. The company is selected for this review because it has propelled itself from a small, low-cost television manufacturing company to a formidable brand in the home appliance and smartphone industries (O’Regan, 2016). Today, Samsung is among the world’s biggest manufacturers of electronic products, including television sets, mobile phones, fridges, and other household appliances (Kim, 2016; Stat Counter, 2021). However, in the context of this study, the company’s focus on marketing communications will be primarily on its smartphone business.
The purpose of writing this report is to investigate the role of integrated marketing communications in explaining Samsung’s meteoric rise to the top of the smartphone market. Key issues that will be discussed in this document, include a review of techniques and resources for building cross-functional relationships among partners, the role of marketing communications in delivering value to customers, practical applications of communication tools, and the development of a robust marketing communications plan to understand the insights described above. However, before delving into the details of this analysis, it is important to understand current approaches to adopting integrated marketing communications strategies.
Current Approaches to Integrated Marketing Communications
Companies can employ various strategies when using integrated marketing communication tools to improve brand visibility. Some of the most commonly used approaches include digital marketing, advertisement, public relations, sales promotion, and print media (Hooley, 2020). A company’s internal processes and market challenges often influence the choice of communication tool. In the case of Samsung, it has used advertisements and public relations as its main marketing communication tools.
For a long time, Samsung has used advertisements as its main marketing communication tool for improving brand visibility (Hooley, 2020). This plan involves the use of print and media advertisements to reach a global audience. One of its interesting features is the minimal emphasis on the promotion of the general brand “Samsung”; choosing, instead, to endorse specific products attributed to the brand, such as The Samsung Galaxy Note or Note 7 (Zhang, 2020). As part of its advertisement campaign in the US market, Samsung has been an official sponsor of many television commercials and shows, such as Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon (Kim, 2016). It has also sponsored advertisements in the National Football League and partnered with various television channels to reach target audiences (Kim, 2016). Additionally, the company’s print media advertisement strategy has been centered on attacking its competitors by showing differences between the company’s brand features and those of its rivals (Hooley, 2020). Notably, the South Korean company has used this advertisement strategy to attack Apple, which is its main competitor (Lee et al., 2019). So far, this strategy has worked because Samsung managed to dislodge Apple as a leader in the smartphone market.
Public Relations (PR)
Public relations are one form of marketing communication tool which allows companies to build brands and develop or improve their image. Samsung also uses this strategy to improve its brand visibility and increase profitability (Kim, 2016). The company’s public relations strategy is multifaceted and spread across a vast array of product divisions. This means that different departments have their public relations team, which manages relevant issues internally before they become problematic when shared in the public space. To support this assertion, Sarno (2016) says, “Samsung hires multiple PR experts to handle its public relations affairs in different countries and across different product lines. They keep a lot of public relations activities in-house, and ‘outsource’ PR activities when external agencies might handle them better” (p. 3). This statement suggests that most of Samsung’s public relations exercises are formulated and implemented in-house. At the same time, complex issues are outsourced to agencies that may be better equipped to address them better.
In terms of target market identification, Samsung’s public relations plan is specifically targeted to a specific demographic as opposed to a general pool of customers. For example, it has tried to target professionals by developing public relations campaigns that encourage them to use tablets in their meetings (Hooley, 2020). This plan has created the impression that its tablets are designed to complete professional tasks and are useful to businesspersons or people working in related fields (Sarno, 2016). Comparatively, the competition has been marketing substitute products as “fun” gadgets for playing games, thereby missing the opportunity to attract a specialized target market that would purchase the product (Zhang, 2020). Therefore, there is a need to develop strategies that address unique customer needs.
Overall, Samsung’s public relations plan has been built on a robust system of business process development aimed at promoting a unified brand – Samsung. Therefore, most of the firm’s operations or missteps are secondary concerns to the overall brand value because it is protected through its public relations value. To demonstrate the efficacy of its public relations strategy, it is important to review how Samsung addressed a recent crisis concerning its Note 7, which had faulty batteries that caused fires when charging (Zhang, 2020). As part of its PR plan, the company took ownership of the problem and discontinued the product, thereby protecting its overall brand image from further public damage (Zhang, 2020). In the minds of the consumers, this action made it seem as though the issue was an isolated one and the brand’s core value was still intact (Wu, Choi and Park, 2020). This crisis management approach stems from its public relations plan, which protects the company’s overall brand image at all costs.
Techniques and Resources to Build Cross-Functional Relationships
Business processes are often underpinned by the actions of actors who are supposed to work together harmoniously to accomplish common objectives (Hooley, 2020). Based on this need, it is crucial to adopt techniques and deploy resources to build cross-functional relationships that would increase harmony in the operationalization of business processes. In line with this statement, Li et al. (2020) recommend that this plan should be localized and be regarded as more important than learning culturally appropriate communication strategies. Samsung’s cross-functional relationships are mainly between suppliers and customers (Hooley, 2020). Both parties are integral in supporting the company’s operations because they represent different ends of the product value chain. In other words, suppliers are required to deliver raw materials, goods, and services that appeal to customer needs, while Samsung has different cross-functional teams within each division of the company’s structure that discuss and develop plans that would enable it to meet the needs and requirements of different shareholders.
The resources Samsung could use to build cross-functional relationships should be based on the adoption of effective and appropriate marketing analytical tools (Duffy and Pooley, 2017). In line with this vision, Samsung should use web analytics to improve relationships with stakeholders. This application includes software or programs that enable businesses to understand the efficiency of their marketing campaigns. Key data indices that are tracked in this manner include page views, the website traffic and website “cookies” (Duffy and Pooley, 2017). Web analytics will offer marketers an opportunity to undertake a focused analysis of current and future integrated marketing initiatives and initiate data-driven marketing efforts by helping to provide a metric for estimating the value of each marketing dollar spent. To achieve these objectives, web analytics will allow marketers to understand how customers are interacting with their marketing content online (Sinclair, 2020). This tool will also indicate to Samsung whether its marketing message is generating interest or initiating action among the target audience.
Artificial intelligence is one type of technology that Samsung could use to improve the efficacy of the proposed web analytical strategy. This strategy involves the use of digital computational power to analyze data that would inform decision-making processes (Panda, Upadhyay and Khandelwal, 2019). In this plan, the needs and requirements of each stakeholder may be obtained by analyzing social media, email, or any other digital data generation processes to create personalized products or buying experiences (Berger et al., 2020). AI technology would eliminate the need of having in-house advertisement teams or employing third-party agents to oversee cross-functional relationship-building efforts. Instead, it works in the background of such processes to generate data showing gaps or opportunities for developing or enhancing cross-functional partnerships (Panda, Upadhyay and Khandelwal, 2019). For example, they could help different product divisions to improve their business processes by exploiting user-generated feedback. Many more opportunities for data integration and optimization exist along these lines of business process development, including opportunities to enhance business functions and create product or service synchrony.
Evaluating the Role of Communications in Delivering Value to Customers
The value that integrated marketing communication offers to businesses is a key driving force for its adoption (Sinclair, 2020). Therefore, it is vital to appreciate the role of integrated marketing communications in delivering value to customers as a first step in understanding its application in the current study context. Relative to this assertion, Samsung can use appropriate marketing communication tools to make its customers aware of its commitment to product safety as a key feature of its brand value. This messaging content comes from existing skepticism about the safety of the company’s products (Zhang, 2020). Although customers are a unique stakeholder group that could benefit from the adoption of effective marketing communication strategies built around a safety-centered messaging structure, other stakeholders could also profit from improved transparency and accountability, which are essential in maintaining and developing high-quality products and services.
Samsung’s current integrated marketing communication strategy that is related to product safety standards is virtual and appears too complex for the average customer to understand. For example, the company articulates its product safety plan through an 8-step battery verification process that provides unnecessary details on safety features that could lead to the loss of customer interest (Samsung Newsroom, 2017). In this regard, there is a low awareness level concerning the company’s product safety standards.
To counter the weaknesses of current communication strategies, Samsung should optimize its public relations and advertisement communication models. The justification for their use is hinged on their ability to accommodate simple messaging structures that could be disseminated to customers in minutes or seconds (Duffy and Pooley, 2017). Public relations and advertisements would also allow customers to receive information that is relevant to product safety, unlike the current website-based communication platform that redirects customers to various unrelated links before product safety categories are found.
Part of this plan involves making shareholders aware of various measures taken to meet safety standards. This analysis involves publishing information about initiatives taken to update product safety standards or steps adopted to enhance research and innovation capabilities (Zhang, 2020). By delivering such information to customers through public relations and advertisements, the firm could benefit from an increase in its brand value and improved cost-effectiveness of business processes (Rotfeld, 2019). Other advantages that could be realized from adopting this strategy include enhanced overall corporate performance and a surge in employee morale (Rotfeld, 2019). Therefore, numerous advantages can be gained from delivering a safety-centered messaging campaign.
Subject to the above insights, Samsung could deliver its safety messaging content from a humorous perspective to provide entertainment value. For example, it could inform its audience that it has learned from its past mistakes through a public relations campaign spearheaded by a comedian. Overall, the new marketing campaign should demonstrate increased awareness of product safety features that would be beneficial to customers (Hooley, 2020). In this regard, shareholders get both entertainment and informative value from advertisements and public relations campaigns.
Practical Application of Communication Tools
As highlighted in earlier sections of this paper, Samsung’s marketing communication tools have been based on website marketing. Alternatively, the company could use advanced digital marketing channels to improve the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns as highlighted below.
Alternative IMC 1: Social Media Advertisements
Social media advertising is a more appropriate and practical communication tool that the company could use to achieve its marketing objectives because it is more interactive and engaging compared to the currently used web-based marketing communication technique (Wandrekar and Nigudkar, 2021). The digital marketing strategy is also appropriate for the company because of the demographic shift in the market for smartphones around the world, which is increasingly being dominated by younger buyers – “millennials.” This group of customers is estimated to comprise of people who were born between the early 1980s and late 1990s period (Milkman, 2017). They are dominating the market for smartphones and have a high affinity for using social media marketing communication platforms to interact with brands. Therefore, shifting Samsung’s marketing communication strategy to this platform would better align with these market changes.
Alternative IMC 2: Video and Web Conferencing
Video conferencing could also be used as an alternative marketing communication tool. It involves the use of live and visual connections that link two or more people located in different geographical areas (Wandrekar and Nigudkar, 2021). This internal marketing communication tool could help to improve the cross-functional relationships described in this paper. In line with this statement, the marketing tool will be pivotal in creating a strong sense of community among Samsung’s different regional or departmental branches around the world. Working towards a common aim, the video conferencing facility would allow different marketing divisions that are spread across the market to interact and brainstorm on new marketing ideas (Wandrekar and Nigudkar, 2021). Similarly, customer feedback could be easily processed across this platform when digital information is transmitted among multiple actors.
Alternative IMC 3: Intranet and Extranet Marketing
Given that Samsung has failed to exploit its internal and external marketing networks to maximize its marketing programs, therein lies an opportunity to exploit intranet and extranet marketing communication tools. These techniques provide the infrastructure for the company to generate and share marketing messages internally through the intranet network and externally through the extranet infrastructure (Seebacher, 2021). The latter part is associated with the integration of contributions from players who are outside of the company’s internal marketing structures in decision-making. Stemming from the different functions played by intranet and extranet infrastructures, each service can be manipulated differently to fit the individual needs of the company as well as its customers (Hongcharu, 2019). Overall, the use of both intranet and extranet networks will allow for enhanced collaboration among different players in Samsung’s business space, including employees, suppliers, customers, and policymakers, just to mention a few.
Marketing Communication Plan
The proposed marketing communication plan involves the use of key elements of the marketing plan outlined above to create three steps of strategy implementation: target audience identification, message encoding, and identification of activities using promotional tools for Samsung. The plan will be implemented as follows.
As highlighted in this document, the target market will be “Millennials,” who make up a majority of the company’s youthful population of smartphone users and are one of the most dynamic people in the market due to their sophisticated tastes and preferences (Smith, 2019). This group of customers is selected as the target market because it finds utility in new product developments, such as the introduction of powerful cameras and mobile phones that have long battery life from Samsung. Relative to this assertion, Smith (2019) says, “Millennials” live in social realities that are deeply tied to digital technologies. Therefore, they emerge as a natural target market for Samsung’s smartphone business.
The process of message encoding refers to the translation of thoughts into actionable pieces of information. In this regard, the process of message encoding is tied with the need to correctly interpret marketing stimuli (Samsung Newsroom, 2017). In Samsung’s marketing plan, customers can encode marketing messages by educating customers about new product features that are important or relevant to their lifestyles. For example, a social media advertising campaign on Instagram could be developed to explain new camera adaptations or features that would improve picture quality. The advertisement campaign could also include a small video of a “Youtuber” or “Vlogger” using Samsung’s new smartphone. By developing such campaigns, customers can encode marketing by linking fun activities, such as “Vlogging,” with useful product features.
Activities and Promotional Tools
Targeting “Millennials” requires a careful balance of meeting a business’s operational and business needs as well as its customer’s requirements. Consequently, there is a need to balance these varying interests and it calls for creativity in developing plans or programs that would safeguard both interests (Dalessandro, 2018). To strike this balance, Samsung could use celebrity advertisements via social media to improve brand performance. Haenlein et al. (2020) support this strategy by demonstrating its efficacy in promoting influencer marketing as an effective promotional tool. The proposed promotional strategy will be based on this model of engagement.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Marketing communication is an important part of implementing marketing plans. However, as seen in this study, different marketing communication tools are available to align a firm’s marketing communication needs with the characteristics of the target market. To understand the role played by integrated marketing communication plans in driving a company’s brand engagement strategy, the case of Samsung was adopted. The investigation was designed to understand how the company’s marketing communication tool helped it to rise from a little-known television manufacturer to one of the world’s most successful brands. The findings highlighted in this study showed that Samsung mainly uses advertisements and public relations as its main marketing communication tools. Alternatively, it was established that these two marketing communication tools are appropriate fits for the company because of their wide global outreach. However, there are opportunities available for the company to adopt more effective marketing communication tools to build on the successes already created by the implementation of the current advertisements and public relations programs.
The use of social media, video conferencing, and intranet/extranet networking platforms, emerged as alternative marketing tools for improving the company’s overall brand strength. Based on this observation, proposals have been made to expand Samsung’s marketing communication tools, including adopting the above-mentioned digital communication strategies, to manage internal and external variables. These communication tools can deliver extra value to the business because of their dynamism and ability to accommodate real-time communication requirements for modern customers. Given that the present study focuses on the millennial buyer as a growing target market for Samsung’s smartphones, the recommendations proposed are intended to maximize their utility and enhance their effectiveness in addressing the needs of modern smartphone users. Marketing communication is crucial in achieving this objective. These steps have led to the development of Samsung’s robust marketing communication plan, which is characterized by an identification of the target audience, an explanation of how they will interpret encoded messages, as well as activities and promotional tools that could be adopted to reach them.
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