Samsung UK and Ireland’s Annika Bizon discusses the tech company’s influencer strategy, how it’s tackling the cost of living crisis and why it’s working with the likes of Niles Rogers, Raheem Sterling and Fearne Cotton to bring some fun and joy to people’s lives
Tech giant Samsung is one of the world’s brand icons - according to Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2022 list, it clocks in as the fifth ‘best’ brand in the world. But while the brand is undeniably ubiquitous and has a reach and reputation that any marketer would be envious of, where it’s working particularly hard is to connect with people on a human level.
Annika Bizon joined the brand in June 2021 as marketing and omnichannel director at Samsung UK and Ireland, and she and her team are working to create a consistent customer journey and foster a sense of community and connection with its consumers. It’s a journey that is ushered by a host of influencers and ambassadors as the brand presents a locally relevant human face. Most recently that's taken the form of a documentary series on creativity fronted by legend Niles Rogers. And that human touch - powered by insight and data - is more important than ever as Samsung, like every other brand, endeavours to play a role in helping people through the cost of living crisis.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Annika to find out about her own journey with Samsung and where the brand is heading in 2023.
LBB> When you joined Samsung last year, what was it about the brand and the potential of the role that appealed to you?
Annika> In terms of brand names – you don’t get much bigger than Samsung. Not only is it instantly recognisable, which is both a dream and a challenge for any marketer, but the technology plays a vital role in all of our day-to-day lives. It’s exciting to be part of a company that can genuinely help change how we work and play.
As Samsung UK and Ireland’s marketing and omnichannel team lead, I was tasked with uniting two incredible teams into one new function – to deliver consistent, best-in-class activity across all touchpoints including online retail, customer service and marketing across a rapidly evolving landscape. This enables me to work with like-minded and more diverse teams to find new and innovative ways to anticipate consumer demands, behaviours and habits, while demonstrating the advantages of our ecosystem through the power of marketing and omnichannel. If I wasn’t already a huge advocate of the brand, the opportunity to shape the direction and future of Samsung’s operations within the UK and Ireland alone, is hard to say no to! So, combining the two was the easiest career decision of my life.
LBB> Your role deals with omnichannel marketing - it feels like the totality of channels and platforms is becoming ever more vast and complex. How does Samsung navigate this?
Annika> It ultimately comes down to the customer journey. Our mission is to ensure that every interaction along that path – be it virtual or in-person – is a great experience that is rooted in seamless communication and a consistent tone of voice that is true to what Samsung stands for. To achieve that, we have a combined marketing and omnichannel team – because, for a seamless experience, you need a seamless team.
The benefit of this structural change is that we can reach the next level in performance while ensuring we are future-proofed to firmly remain innovators in our industry. We achieve this by starting the consumer journey with the customer, not the product – placing them right at the centre of all our conversations. We arrange regular focus groups and research to help us better understand our customers so we can create a personalised experience that is tailored to their needs. When the team and I meet, we go through our customer data to analyse and understand their habits and behaviour. It’s an ongoing cycle and there’s a constant drive to come up with new ways to communicate with consumers. It’s a community at the end of the day – and these always evolve. No two days are the same.
LBB> Which emerging channels or platforms are proving most fruitful for Samsung in the UK and why?
Annika> Central to our marketing strategy is listening to our customers and innovating - analysing the digital media and the mediums they consume to ensure we are where our customers are and that we’re talking to the right people, on the right platforms. That’s why we focus our attention on takeovers across YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, BVOD, high-impact display formats and many more placements, to make Samsung unmissable. Each channel is carefully selected to reach our target demographics – tech connoisseurs who want their tech to optimise their lives, and social expressors who demand the very best from their tech to share and showcase their lives.
In a first-of-its-kind move for the brand, earlier this year, my team and I launched our 12-month influencer and ambassador programme – turbocharging our omnichannel marketing approach, to drive awareness and engagement with customers and bring the world of our foldable devices to life. Working with inspiring and influential figures, our campaign introduced new audiences to these two distinctive mobile experiences with a personalised voice. Seeing the Galaxy Z Flip4 and Z Fold4 in real-life use cases, helps showcase the ‘why’ behind the foldable designs, and to create further excitement and interest.
LBB> And since joining Samsung last year, what projects have you been proudest of?
Annika> In a good way – I have a few different ones to choose from. From my first ‘Unpacked’ global devices launch, where we introduced the ‘Tiger in the City’ campaign for our S22 series, which brought a giant 3D tiger roaring to life on digital 3D displays in five of the world’s most vibrant cities – New York, London, Dubai, Kuala Lumper and Seoul. All the way through to our most-recent Galaxy Z Flip4 and Z Fold4 series Unpacked launch where my team and I took IRL experiences to the next level with our Galaxy Experience space in Piccadilly Circus. Designed to deliver an imersive, hands-on experience that would get people talking online or off, we took over the heart of London and opened it to the public for three weeks from launch. Housing 12 curated experiences to showcase the power of Z Flip4 and Z Fold4 and the wider Galaxy ecosystem, including Galaxy Watch5, Galaxy Watch5 Pro, and the Galaxy Buds2 Pro.
However, I think my proudest moment to date would have to be the 12-month ambassador and influencer campaign. I feel confident that we have truly ‘flipped’ our marketing approach to match the ambition and disruptive spirit of our devices - creating something that is entirely unique among our competitors, and something I feel our teams should be truly proud of.
LBB> Talking of Samsung’s work with ambassadors and influencers, the brand recently revealed Fearne Cotton and Raheem Sterling as brand ambassadors - why were they the best strategic fit for Samsung?
Annika> We are seeing a stronger sense of community forming around, and being inspired by, brands. This is an opportunity for brands to act differently and interact with their customers on a different level. This is something we’re really focused on at Samsung UK and Ireland, and our foldables range is an exciting opportunity to appeal to this younger, gen z audience.
We conduct rigorous testing across this demographic, continually deepening our understanding of this audience so that we can ensure we’re as authentic and specific as possible when delivering campaigns. We therefore utilised this insight when we chose each ambassador, ensuring that they were aligned with our brand ideals and able to communicate with our audience in a relevant and credible way.
These inspiring partnerships have, and will, continue to see both Fearne Cotton and Raheem Sterling hero the latest devices and bring to life how our technology and ecosystem can help people fulfil their passions. As a lover of wellbeing, Fearne is already bringing her expertise and passion to showcase how technology can be utilised in positive ways to support overall health. While inspirational sporting figure Raheem brings with him a drive for supporting communities. With his incredible story of growing up in Brent and fulfilling his dream to play at Wembley, to his new foundation (the Raheem Sterling Foundation), his focus is on democratising the role of technology and promoting social mobility, through the power of connection.
LBB> How would you describe Samsung UK & Ireland’s strategy for working with celebrities and influencers generally?
Annika> Influencer marketing connects our brand with consumers on social media and therefore it’s extremely important that we work with the right people. In order to do this, we use data and analytics that map to our key audiences, but we also use our instinct as champions of the Samsung brand to identify content creators that excite and inspire us.
Authenticity is crucial, which is why we work with a broad range of influencers who span different interest areas to appeal to our audiences. We work with our influencers to ensure that the partnership is the right fit for both parties, enabling them to create content that is authentic to their voice but has the Samsung message at its heart.
LBB> I’m curious about how influencers and brand ambassadors can help humanise tech brands - what are your thoughts on this?
Annika> Our technology is revolutionary, and we know our marketing must not only communicate the true innovation that lies at the core of our devices and ecosystem, but also be innovative in order to reach our audience. We know that listing off specs and features isn’t enough as users expect the highest standards from Samsung. What we strive to do is bring those consumers closer to our brand and get them to really engage with our ecosystem and fall in love with our products.
Our influencer campaigns do just that – using our carefully chosen influencers to talk authentically to our audiences on our behalf. We work with influencers on a 12-month basis, which helps the creators not only benefit from longer-term use of our products but to be true Samsung advocates. This enables us to convey key messages to audiences that traditional advertising channels do not reach, coupled with great social-first content.
LBB> Samsung is a global brand but it’s also great at touching people where they are locally - how do you and the team at Samsung approach translating the Samsung brand to the UK market locally?
Annika> While Samsung is a Korean brand, we work with teams from across the globe to ensure none of the company's heritage and culture is lost in translation whenever we launch a campaign. Further still, we work hard to ensure we are delivering products and campaigns that are relevant to local markets, this is why we run research and focus groups. These practices are crucial for us to understand what a market needs so we can provide the right products for consumers.
None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for my amazing team who work relentlessly to ensure we do our best to understand our audience base, reach the next level in performance and find new ways to engage with our customers.
LBB> The cost of living crisis looms large for all marketers at the moment, so how are you and your team thinking about this in terms of how Samsung shows up?
Annika> Recent years have demonstrated that change is the only constant in life, and business leaders must be prepared to deal with it; by being agile in their planning, even more so in the current economic environment. Most notably, we are all feeling the pressure of the cost of living crisis and recognise that it is important for consumers, no matter where they are in the customer journey, to have the opportunity to experience the product and to have a range of purchase options. That’s why we work with our channel partners to ensure trade-in deals support purchases and upgrades, and we offer multiple finance options through Samsung.com. Furthermore, we aim to provide additional value through our partnerships such as Disney+ where customers can receive between 6 and 12 months of Disney+ when they purchase an eligible Samsung device.
We also think about how we can connect our wider ecosystem to bring additional value to customers, whether that is offering enhanced value deals for multiple product purchases, or highlighting the power of our ‘SmartThings’ service. For example, our free SmartThings Energy app unleashes the power of smart meters, helping customers track, monitor and control their energy usage. Perfect for the cold snap we are currently all experiencing.
LBB> And looking ahead, what are your key priorities for the Samsung brand in the coming year?
Annika> Omnichannel marketing will need to work harder than ever before in 2023. There is an ever-increasing requirement to devise new ways to engage with customers and to understand each unique need. This is particularly important for our gen z audience. Therefore, my key priority for the brand is to dive into the data we have about our customers and their habits and create even better, more tailored experiences for them. We will utilise sophisticated data insights that will enable us to be even more specific when it comes to segmentation, further innovating our go-to-market strategy to create more personalised experiences for consumers. Combined with the power of our omnichannel approach, we can provide a truly impactful customer experience all the way through from awareness to demand capture and conversion.
Also, I want to have fun and bring more joy to people’s lives through the Samsung brand and our campaigns. Times are tough, so when people are looking for some escapism, we can be the ones delivering it.