View from the C-Suite: Samsung wants to be a cultural enabler

CMO David Allard explains how working with influencers helps further the brand's "do what you can't" positioning.


This year, Samsung Canada is all about finding new ways to tap into culturally relevant moments, says CMO David Allard, often with the help of influencers. The goal, he says, is to help further drive its “do what you can’t” positioning.

Most recently, Samsung has worked to bring that promise to life through a partnership with Director X (a.k.a. Julien Christian Lutz). As part of the partnership, Director X is working with three junior directors from his Toronto-based production shop, Popp Rok, on a series of music videos filmed with the company’s new Galaxy Note 10 smartphone. The brand is also working on additional behind-the-scenes content for Twitter with the help of so.da, Corus Entertainment’s social digital agency.

“It’s really about delivering on consumer insight,” Allard says. “As part of that vision, we set out to engage with media partners who provide us with not only the connection insights with Canadians, but also the means to reach our target at scale.”

Allard, who arrived at Samsung in November after working at Coca-Cola, Diageo and the Campbell Company of Canada, spoke to strategy about the partnership and how the brand is using other cultural influencers to tap into consumers’ enthusiasm for tech.

Samsung-Director X

Are collaborations like the one with Director X part of a larger strategy at Samsung? 

Samsung Canada has always had a rich history of building the brand through culture and culturally relevant influencers. For example, earlier this year, for the launch of the Galaxy S10, we leveraged a global relationship with a Canadian influencer, Molly Burke. We’re always on the lookout for moments that fit into our consumers’ lives and provides an opportunity to demonstrate how our products allow people to do what they otherwise can’t, through their passions. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is another example of how we’re doing that. It really put our mobile and our TV innovation in front of consumers, highlighting real-life use cases. We used the Galaxy Note 10 to capture the excitement on the red carpet, and we had the official TIFF Samsung Studio, where some of the festival’s most esteemed guests had their photos taken using the Galaxy Note 10. After TIFF, we’re going into Elevate, which is another cultural tech festival that’s allowing us to showcase our mobile innovation and position ourselves as one of Canada’s most influential brands.

How much of this strategy is distinctly Canadian and how much of it comes from global imperatives?  

In Canada, it’s always important to find the thread of global marketing strategies that we can pull on and activate at the local level. But as someone who has worked both in marketing globally and locally, understand that there is truly no global marketing without brilliant marketing at the local level. It really is a symbiotic relationship. What we’ve done this year in Canada is hone in on the values that we hold ourselves to – being collaborative, partnering internally and externally for results across consumers and businesses and customer needs. We’re implementing a robust connection planning approach that aims to understand the consumer journey and path to purchase, and how we might take a data-driven approach to marketing across that journey.

What lessons have you learned about the technology space since being named CMO?

We’re in an era where technology is as much a part of mass culture as music and sports. People are really engaged in this category and excited about what’s coming next. I went to my first CES conference in Vegas back in February, and I was amazed that it’s not just IT people that are interested in this category. This is culture. Taking that approach to embedding in culture and the way that we think about marketing our brand, and bringing to life our brand purpose is really what we’ve been focused on. And trying to think about how we launch product innovation by bringing that sense of possibility and discovery to Canadians.

How do you deal with consumers who aren’t as interested in the latest product innovations? Does success for Samsung require embracing customers who are less enthusiastic about keeping up? 

It’s important to look at all [consumers]. You need to understand how they shop the category, whether they be tech enthusiasts or have a light involvement with the category. From my perspective at least, consumers have never been more engaged in technology and our categories than they are today. Really thinking about this category from that perspective unlocks our ability to bring to life our brand purpose in culturally relevant ways. Without going into too much detail, it’s really a mass cultural opportunity that we see. Obviously, we do see segmentation and we look at different ways of communicating to different consumer groups. But at a mass level, this is something that consumers are engaged with as a category and that’s a great opportunity for an innovative brand like Samsung.

This interview is part of a series for Strategy C-Suite, a weekly email briefing on how Canada’s brand leaders are responding to market challenges and acting on new opportunities. Sign-up for the newsletter here to receive the latest stories directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.