Marc Mathieu was appointed as Samsung’s chief marketing officer in 2015 to oversee the company’s catalog of kitchen appliances, TVs, smartphones, and Samsung Gear VR—just to name a few.
So far in 2016—from to CES to Mobile World Congress to Sundance and SXSW—Samsung’s virtual reality train has been chugging along at the forefront of the Korean electronics conglomerate’s marketing campaigns.
Samsung has done a commendable job carrying the 2015 Q4 steam and sizzle that saw them introduce the Oculus-powered Gear VR at a $99 price-point. One way Samsung is trying to make VR mainstream and available to the masses is to leverage their line of products to an ecosystem filled with hungry content creators.
“The marketer’s job in the digital age has become the easiest job in the world. You don’t need to do anything anymore. You just need to [put it in the hands of the people] and let them do it for you,” Mathieu told [a]listdaily. “People are dying to do marketing for you if you give them a 360 camera to create content. Why would we want to do marketing when we have the technology platform that a lot of people want to embrace, share and talk about?”
Samsung is redefining how creatives can use their smartphones by pairing the Galaxy S7 with the soon-to-be-released Gear 360 camera—making it mobile’s undisputed VR tag-team champions of sorts.
Tim Baxter, Samsung’s president and chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics America, previously told [a]listdaily that VR is ready for primetime. “We understand the responsibility of moving virtual reality forward, and it’s in our best interests,” Baxter said. “Virtual reality is poised for great, great growth.”
The same sentiment has previously been echoed by industry peers. Mark Cuban told [a]listdaily that he thinks the first step for VR to reach the masses is to adapt existing streaming apps to work in Gear VR goggles. The Samsung Milk VR store, released on the Google Play store last month, allows users to enjoy 360 video even without a Gear VR rig.
Mathieu, who previously was the vice president of global brand marketing for Coca-Cola and also a marketing executive at Unilever, joined [a]listdaily to discuss Samsung USA’s marketing pop.
How is Samsung positioning its marketing efforts for virtual reality?
The way we think about our role in virtual reality, and because we have taken a leadership role on the hardware side, we really have an obligation and a self-interest to accelerate the democratization of both content creation and content experiences. My role as a marketer is to be an accelerator of the adoption at scale because the more people who create content, the more there is to experience. Marketing has this amazing role. The job is no longer about making advertising, but to put VR into the hands of the people like we do with the VR Coaster, and beyond. I’m a huge believer.
Samsung’s new Gear 360 camera enables YouTube influencers in an entirely new way. How are you tapping into influencer marketing?
It’s fantastic. You have more and more influencers becoming like celebrities. It’s not about giving people a phone so that they carry the phone. The beauty is that with the creation and experience platform like 360 and Gear VR, you’re able to actually look at influencers, and put [the technology] in their hands as tools to create and become a part of the acceleration that I was talking about. The influencers become the marketers with the 360 content and Gear VR experience. It becomes more than just a product placement—it’s really an empowerment. On top of it, when you talk about marketing VR in 360, our job is to equip people with the tools, knowledge, forums and the sharing so that they can actually become savvy.
Samsung has signed the world’s No. 1 basketball influencer in LeBron James. How is a star like him helping accelerate the mass adoption of VR?
He’s definitely a part of it. He wanted to do the Uninterrupted film in VR. We supported that. We helped with the whole Gear VR experience and marketed it. You’re absolutely right, but what’s interesting now is how we can play with the LeBron Jameses of the world, and influencers like Casey Neistat. And that’s what’s amazing. You have both the big celebrities, and celebrities that a lot of people don’t know, yet, people will line up to take a picture with him.
An influencer’s bread and butter comes from social media. How is Samsung using social?
More and more, it’s one of our objectives—to make sure that we contextualize and personalize the way we engage with people, at scale, but in a way that is relevant to the person, and not just to a brand. It’s very easy for us to talk ‘at you’ without knowing who you are. It depends on the stage of your relationship. We are re-introducing ourselves with the message without continuing the conversation we were having before. We’re really trying to build through data with the ability of being more contextual and personal when it comes to building social relationships. And that’s why I consistently bring in influencers like Casey. It’s also another great way to get more savvy into the social world with people whose job, passion and skill it is to be social in nature. I’m a huge believer in influencers. That’s the next frontier.
Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan