The marketing director for Samsung Electronics UK & Ireland, Sharon Hegarty, on how letting its customers and director Sam Hibbard guide the narrative led to a weird but beautiful love story
We must admit, when Samsung’s TVC ‘Onions’ landed in our inboxes, it came as something of a blindside to us at LBB. We thought we knew what Samsung’s advertising looked like. And an adorable, gently paced oddball love story revolving around tear jerking alliums was not it.
Based on a real-life photo of a sack of onions taken on a Samsung smartphone, the film demonstrates the creativity that good photography can provoke. Directed by Sam Hibbard of Somesuch London, with creative from Mother, the cinematic ad dampened eyes across the UK and Ireland, despite the fact that the onions being chopped were only on screen.
It made us wonder what was going on in Samsung’s marketing department to provoke this welcome shift in tone. So LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Sharon Hegarty, Samsung Electronics UK & Ireland marketing director, to find out.
LBB> When you started your new role at Samsung earlier this year, what were your broad thoughts on where the brand's marketing was at?
Sharon> Samsung’s advertising always looked amazing and premium, delivering meaningful products and messages to an audience at scale, which is ultimately what you’d expect from a global brand this size. It is something I admired as both a consumer and a marketeer, even before I joined the company.
Something that did interest me when I came to the role was how to join the dots between all the brilliant products in our ecosystem, and that is what our recent Galaxy Note20 campaign focused on. We launched Galaxy Note20, Galaxy Watch3, Galaxy Buds Live and the Tab S7+ 5G tablet all at the same time to encourage more of our customers to enjoy the experience that the ecosystem offers. And with our industry-first and biggest 5G-ready line up, we’re integrating greater connectivity into a broad range of devices to enable our customers to create and inspire the future they want to be part of.
At the beginning of the year, one in five of our customers owned more than one Galaxy device, which has now grown to one in four, showing the success of our ecosystem story. I think this is where our biggest strength and our best opportunities lie from a marketing perspective – bringing to life the unique experiences that our ecosystem products can deliver when combined and telling that story to our customer base.
LBB> When did the idea that became the onions campaign begin at Samsung? Were the team at Mother already working on it?
Sharon> It all started with our #FromMyWindow
campaign, earlier this year, where we encouraged Samsung owners to share photos of their lockdown surroundings via our social channels. Our goal was to turn isolation into a creative opportunity that captured a snapshot of the UK at that unique moment in time. By leveraging authentic UGC in social ad formats, Samsung was able to grow its network of genuine brand advocates, in turn boosting social proof and driving cultural relevancy.
Such was the success of the campaign; we continued to grow and expand it as the lockdown regulations eased. #FromMyWindow became #FromMyWander
as we took that next step of the journey with the nation as more people started leaving the house to go for a daily walk. It was encouraging for us to see the level of engagement, authenticity and inspiration which came from our smartphone photography.
This is what then evolved into Inspired By A True Photo, part of our longer-term camera strategy. The idea behind the platform is simple, to showcase how a single shot taken on a smartphone can inspire incredible creativity.
If you look at any photography campaign out there at the moment, it heroes the end image, but for us, that is just the beginning. Onions is a beautifully shot cinematic advert which stems from one achingly simple image, showing the possibilities and creativity that can stem from smartphone photography.
Our customers are at the core of everything we do, so it was integral that our owners could be part of the campaign through #WithGalaxy. As Inspired By A True Photo continues to grow in the future, we’re excited to champion not just real-life consumer photos, but how these images inspire the next creative journey.
LBB> In terms of the direction that you want to take the brand's marketing in, what were your aims for this campaign?
Sharon> This year, consumers' relationships with technology have become even more integral as they have looked to stay connected to the outside world. At the same time, the pandemic has unlocked new ways of connecting with audiences and brought brands into people’s lives in new ways. I think that now, more than ever, people are looking for a daily dose of self-expression or creativity. We talk about photography and videography being a form of conversation or a tool of communication; this never has been truer than now. I know personally, my children would rather send me a photo or a ‘snap’, rather than texting me!
Inspired By A True Photo is a visual articulation of this. It represents a new way of thinking about our technology – in this case our cameras – and marks a shift in our marketing narrative. We’ve created a platform for smartphone photography that not only complements the tech within our devices, but that runs alongside it and inspires creativity.
The long-term strategy aims to build advocacy outside of product launches, whilst raising awareness of the technology within them. This mechanic is something we’ve also applied to our 5G work. 5G is a core performance pillar within our industry leading portfolio, but with a similar strategic marketing approach, we’re supporting our product launches by building a story for our customers that highlight the possibilities of what 5G can bring.
LBB> What was the journey from there to telling an engrossing love story about onions?
Sharon> As a starting concept, the possibilities were endless. We worked with creative agency Mother London to shape the concept of our campaign in a way that allows us to focus on the people behind the camera, telling their stories across our entire marketing mix.
The project followed a simple, yet effective mechanic – taking a single image from a Galaxy device and making it the catalyst to inspire a creative journey. We gave directors different photos and tasked them with coming up with their interpretations and treatments of those photographs. When we saw the response from Sam Hibbard we were blown away – how you could develop such a romantic looking story based on a picture of onions really stood out to us. Sam did an amazing job of developing a story that expresses the raw human emotion that can be unleashed from a beautifully shot, yet achingly simple, photograph. It is this creativity and inspiration we want to encourage throughout the next phases of the platform.
We hope that going forward, more people will see the shot as the start of the conversation, not the end. We want to encourage them to continue uploading their real-life photos using #withGalaxy, for the chance to have their image chosen. The subject of their photo can then become the heart of our next creative idea, and a further inspiration in arts and culture.
LBB> What were the main decisions you made along with Mother and Sam Hibbard along the way?
Sharon> It was a close working relationship between us as a brand and Mother as our creative agency to create a mechanic for this platform that could be executed in multiple ways. Once we had that, we made the decision to hand over the ‘creative reins’ and see what could become of this concept. When Sam selected the onions image, he had a completely open brief, which gave him creative freedom to have fun with the challenge. I think you’ll agree the results were beautiful, I personally will never be able to look at onions the same way.
Being able to craft a platform which encourages new creative journeys from a single image has been an incredible experience for everyone involved – and exciting to watch from start to finish.
For us this is a perfect example to show that it’s not just about taking a great photo, but what you do with the photo that counts.
LBB> It's been a difficult year. What's been the hardest part of the journey for this campaign?
Sharon> Despite 2020 being a strange time for all, we’ve seen some fantastic campaigns and activity across the board, so we’ve proved we can do it remotely. There were some obvious challenges, such as face-to-face contact on shoot days, so we have had to shift our approach to get the job done safely.
I think moving forward there will be a more hybrid approach, as people miss that human interaction – as marketeers that’s a big part of our role, and something that me and my team really value.
That being said, we’ve successfully launched a new creative platform with our customers in mind, which was born entirely through working remotely. If we can come up with something like this when we’re physically apart, think of what we can do together.
All in the spirit of our #DoWhatYouCant motto.
LBB> What are you most proud of about it?
Sharon> We’ve seen overwhelmingly positive feedback across the board for our Inspired By A True Photo platform. From our colleagues across Europe to the customer comments we’ve seen across social – it has brought a smile to people’s faces and it genuinely brings optimism.
It’s been really well received across media too – we had great interest that has allowed us to tap into the consumer insights of photography as communication. Although still in its infancy, the campaign demonstrates how we can support our product launches with a complimentary narrative that touches on the small things our customers care about in their day-to-day, and is something we’re really proud of. It’s an exciting place to be when we’re just at the start of our journey.
With our customer-centric approach and the opportunities our Inspired By A True Photo platform creates, the possibilities are endless and we’re looking forward to bringing our next instalment to life soon.
LBB> In the wider picture of Samsung's marketing story, what do you hope this campaign will represent? What's its significance?
Sharon> Inspired By A True Photo is a storytelling campaign which complements and runs alongside our innovation story. It represents the wider shift we’re making in our marketing approach, bringing our customers into the narrative. We hope that this will encourage people to think about smartphone photography in a different way – building on our camera leadership and inspiring creativity.
Product launches are measured on awareness and consideration, whereas Inspired By A True Photo will be something that we develop and build in tandem. The combination of driving that immediate impact and awareness around our products, with longer term intent and brand love, is what we’re aiming for with this fresh approach.
For an example of this, look no further than our recently launched S20 FE smartphone, where we hero the technology behind the device, but at the same time, Inspired By a True Photo speaks to our audience in a different way and starts this creative narrative.