Influencer R&D would have saved broken Samsung Galaxy fold

Influencer input would have saved Samsung Galaxy Fold screens

Including influencers within the Samsung Galaxy Fold product development process would have prevented broken-screen reviews.

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Like you, no doubt, this week I’ve seen a stack of YouTuber unboxing videos for the new Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Casey Neistat’s was the first one I saw - on Monday. The video enjoyed all the Neistat hallmarks of wit, relevant information and slick production value.

There were other unboxing reviews: Marques Brownlee did one. Unbox Therapy did one. Lots of YouTubers did them.

Yes, some people will buy this $2,000 handset. But really the Samsung Galaxy Fold is the South Korean company’s version of a concept car. It’s their direction of travel. The phone is telling the world that the electronics manufacturer is a leader; not a follower. The handset is designed to wow the taste makers whilst normalising the concept of multiple-screen phones for the masses down the road.

If you are going to stick your head above the parapet as an innovator you need to be sure that your product is fit for purpose.

There have been problems with the publicity rollout for Samsung. Perhaps due to pressure to launch before the HUAWEI Mate X with its three foldable screens. Several reviewers have found the screens on Samsung Galaxy fold have broken.

Dieter Bohn from the Verge had a bad experience. He took to Twitter writing: "SUPER YIKES: something happened to my Galaxy Fold screen and caused a bulge. I don't know how it happened, and I'm waiting to hear back from Samsung. It's broken."

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman had similar issues. He told his Twitter followers: "The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not."

The cause? Some reviewers removed a film that went over the screen, thinking it was the typical protective layer you find on all new smartphones to keep the screen in good condition until you buy it.

Samsung said the top layer of clear plastic film on the foldable screen was designed to protect it from scratches. “Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers,” the company said, according to an FT article.

Working with influencers ahead of the publicity drive around the handset’s launch would have paid dividends. True brand advocates can bring their unique perspective and subject matter expertise to the product development process.

No doubt Samsung road-tested the new phone to death internally in preparation for launch. They would have been desperate not to repeat the catastrophe of their one-time flagship model: Galaxy Note 7 catching fire.

Including influencers in the road-testing would have brought a fresh pair of eyes. These eyes would be focused on audience not on the brand. 

By incorporating influencers at the product development level, Samsung would have gained valuable insights into how the Galaxy Fold would have actually been used rather than how the tech giant assumed it would be used.

Of course, allowing outsiders past the velveteen rope into the company takes trust. The temptation to scoop the new product to their audience will be tantalising. But, the long-term benefits outweigh this. A small cohort of advocate influencer testers might have gained rights to produce a first-look priority as reward for their input.

Becca Taylor explained the benefits of including influencers in the R&D process whilst she was Senior Marketing Manager, Influencer Relations & Marketing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

In a report for influencer platform, Traackr, Taylor explained "A blogger came to me and said, ‘I have this idea and I'd love to partner with you to do this. I want to take your technology out of the box at your lab, build the machine, deploy a dummy company onto the units and livestream the whole thing to show how it’s done.'

"Over four plus hours, he came into one of our labs and livestreamed it and we had one of our technical marketing folks there, and a pre-sales solutions architect, just in case something went wrong. And as he was doing this build, sure enough they ran into a problem but they worked together to solve it. The HP guys told me they never would have thought to solve the problem that way but they came up with an entirely new path to success because of the insightful problem-solving of the influencer."

Where was the compliance?

A last note on disclosure and compliance. I couldn’t tell whether the unboxing videos were sponsored by Samsung. Whether the $2000 handset had been gifted or loaned. The handset is not available to buy in the US until April 26 so it couldn’t have been bought. The commercial relationship with Samsung should have been made clearer by YouTubers to their audiences.

About the Author Scott Guthrie

Scott Guthrie is an influencer marketing strategist, event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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