Samsung Marketing

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Samsung Electronics Company: Global Marketing Operations

Company Background and Strategy

The Samsung conglomerate’s roots dated back to 1938 when the company produced agricultural products. In the 1970s, the company focused on shipbuilding, chemicals, and textiles. Samsung Electronics Company (SEC)2 was founded in 1969, primarily as a low-cost manufacturer of black and white televisions. In the 1970s, Samsung acquired a semiconductor business, thereby setting the stage for future growth in electronics. Throughout the 1980s, SEC supplied global markets with massive quantities of commodity products such as televisions, VCRs, and microwave ovens. The company sold its products to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that resold them under their

1 “Samsung Electronics Marketing Special: Brand Reloaded—analyzing the world’s fastest growing brand,” CLSA Emerging

Markets, May 2003.


2 All references to Samsung or SEC refer to Samsung Electronics Company and not to other affiliate companies or the Samsung

conglomerate. ____________________________________________________________

Professor John Quelch and Research Associate Anna Harrington prepared this case with the assistance of the HBS Asia Pacific Research Center. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Certain details have been disguised. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.

Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. or 617-783-7860.

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When Kim became the head of marketing in 2000, Samsung was not even ranked. “Ten years ago, Samsung was a third-tier commodity brand with very little product differentiation,” noted Kim. “Now, we’re knocking on the door of the premier league, earlier than I ever thought possible.” Kim and the top management of Samsung would be meeting soon to discuss how Samsung could reach the top 10 by 2005, completing the company’s transformation from an also-ran into a blockbuster brand. Kim’s job was to lead Samsung’s global-marketing and brand-building efforts in order to achieve this goal. As Kim explained: “Achieving a high level of awareness is the first step. We have done this. But becoming a truly preferred brand is a whole different challenge.”1



In August 2003, Eric Kim, executive vice president for global marketing operations at Samsung Electronics Company (SEC), was delighted about Samsung’s latest position in BusinessWeek’s annual ranking of the world’s most valuable brands: “We are number 25 this year with an estimated valuation of $10.8 billion, up 31% from number 34 and $8.3 billion last year. We are the only Korean brand on the top 100 list, we were the fastest-growing of all 100 brands in 2002, and we’re closing in on Sony, which is ranked at 20 this year with a $13.2 billion valuation compared to 21 and $13.9 billion last year.”


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REV: APRIL 3, 2007


Samsung Electronics Company: Global Marketing Operations

own, better-known brand names. During this time, the company’s mission increasingly emphasized manufacturing quality and technical leadership, especially leadership among consumer electronics companies. Profits from these activities were reinvested in research and development (R&D) and in state-of-the-art...
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