Will the new premium models remain the eye-candy of the suits or become the fancy of the millennials and Gen Z? We find out.
The smartphone, believe me not, was once less of a tech gadget and more of a designer’s toy. Rewind to the early 2000s and you’d recall those odd shapes and designs of Nokia phones. It was an age when the hardware did all the talking, while the software played second fiddle.
Karma was watching and decided to play its cards. Over the last 10-12 years, it is the software that has scored more brownie points than the hardware. The body of the smartphone, no longer known as just a phone, has been relegated to the sidelines. It is rectangular in shape and the only talking point now is if it is made out of plastic or metal.
But, things have changed again. The most popular smartphone design innovation today is the fold. Think about folding a notebook, but, instead of paper and cardboard, you are folding a smartphone. Samsung leads the race, at least in terms of popularity, when it comes to the ‘Fold’ series.
It first saw daylight in 2019 and was named the Samsung Galaxy Fold, before being rechristened as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold. Other players in the mix include Huawei, Xiaomi, Microsoft, Oppo, and LG.
Coming right after the fold is the flip. Yes, the flip phone is back. What was once the crown jewel in Motorola’s kingdom of phones, aka Moto Razor, has now found its way into Samsung’s treasury.
A couple of days ago, the South Korean electronics giant released an ad for the latest versions of its fold and flip smartphones: Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 respectively.
Conceptualised by the creative agency Cheil India, Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt is featured in the ad. She plays a double role, where one is seen vying for the fold, while the other is drooling over the flip model. Turns out, there is only one of her and she’s just confused as to whether to flip or fold.
Samsung is not the first smartphone brand that Bhatt has endorsed. Earlier, she was the face of Nokia and Gionee smartphones.
What caught our eye was that Bhatt is endorsing two of Samsung’s most premium smartphone models. As per Samsung India’s website, you can pre-book the Galaxy Z Fold3 5 G for Rs 1.5 lakh and the Galax Z Flip3 5G for Rs 85,000. (I’ve rounded off Re 1 in both the pre-book prices.)
At first glance, it is clear that these models are meant for the ‘suits’; those senior-level folks who travel in SUVs and luxury models and earn seven figures every year. Power and productivity are the adjectives you’d associate with them and once upon a time, most, if not all, of them swore by the BlackBerry phone.
I am exaggerating here, but only slightly. I remember a former agency head flaunting the first Samsung Galaxy Z Fold on his Facebook profile right after its launch in India.
Coming back to the ad, you will feel a sort of dissonance when you see it. Bhatt’s core fan base is the millennial generation and only a bunch of this audience can afford such a smartphone. Using her reach, Samsung is trying to target the aspirational consumers and urging them to go for its Fold and Flip models.
“I think it’s a pretty good strategy,” says Shubhajit Sen, founding partner, A Priori Consultants (he was former CMO of Micromax). He feels that the premium Android phones today are positioned on performance, etc. OnePlus, Samsung S series are examples of such phones.
He, however, also feels that there is a consumer segment “for whom, being seen as different is part of their self-identity… Take a successful tech company founder, who does not want to be seen as another corporate suit, but as a creative entrepreneur... Or people who see themselves as young at heart, creative and different. I believe any or all of these segments could be attracted to it.”
Speaking about the campaign’s communication, Sen believes that it "would work on visual media, like Instagram... She (Bhatt) is a great choice because she brings a combination of substantiveness and glamour... She is an A-list celebrity and yet brings an aura of approachability and familiarity. Samsung would be happy if these qualities rub off on the new launch.”
Will Bhatt’s endorsement help Samsung attract the millennials? Sambit Mohanty, head of creative, South, McCann Worldgroup, says the product demo (in the ad) was engaging, but he feels “the twin device was used better in last year’s campaign for Flipkart Big Billion Days (sale), that also starred Alia.”
Mohanty is confident that the “millennial/Gen-Z audience may consider it purely as a novelty.” One doesn’t see much scope for plugging productivity here because that doesn’t seem to be the forte of these models. “These would be purchased more from a show-off point of view.”
The crux, of the campaign, rests on the flip and fold functionality of the models. Talking about their treatment in the ad, Ananda Ray, creative head, Rediffusion, says the ad would have, perhaps, been “equally effective without a celebrity in it. But it helps to have someone, who is vivacious, fun and appealing.”
He adds that the messaging is pretty clear and the company even managed to include some other features the phones offer in the ad.
“It makes for a less sharp communication and feels like tick-mark inclusions… Smart phones (two words is deliberate here) that flip/fold, and have a lot of other useful and fun features too. So, you know you won't be paying for just some design gimmick, is basically what the ad seems to want to say. In which case, it does its job,” he signs off.