Samsung’s Creative Qualitative Research

Galaxy S4 Built on Ethnography & Trend Analysis

Samsung’s new Galaxy S4, positioned as your “real life companion”, lands in stores April 26.  It builds some new features into the successful Galaxy S3 wireless phone.  Much has written lately about the different marketing approaches of Samsung and Apple, especially their use of creative qualitative research.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Close-Up

Samsung Ethnography

Roy Furchgott, in his February 11, 2013 New York Times article, detailed some of Samsung’s creative qualitative research and ethnographic research.  Samsung spends $10.7 billion, or 5.7 percent of revenue, compared with Apple’s $3.4 billion, 2.2% on research and innovation.  It conducts primary qualitative and quantitative research and uses secondary research sources.

But Samsung also relies heavily on ethnography and trend analysis to bring inspiration and to port ideas over from other realms of design.  It listens to consumers, other industries and its partners, such as component makers and wireless carriers.

Apple Isn’t Really Anti-Marketing Research

Apple, by contrast, likes to be known as the anti-marketing research company, and Steve Jobs is often quoted, “It isn’t the consumer’s job to know what they want.”  But as Jessica E. Vascellaro pointed out on July 26, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, Apple survey reports have actually been entered into court proceedings, making public some of its actual marketing research findings.

So Apple isn’t just a black box of innovation, jumping out in front of the consumer and using empathic design and usability testing rather than merely reacting to what consumers say they want.  Of course, marketing research isn’t really what Steve Jobs was decrying, since these approaches fall under its definition as well!  Research isn’t just crosstabs, choice modeling and mall intercepts.  When the definition includes less structured qualitative and ethnographic approaches, and creative leaps before and after talking to consumers, this whole pro-con MR argument becomes meaningless.

Creative Marketing Research

As both Apple and Samsung, the only two companies currently making money in the wireless device market, illustrate, marketing research must include creative qualitative research approaches to gathering information as well as intuition in interpreting and using data.  Marketing research informs, not replaces, the knowledge, insights and gut decision making of business people, creative designers and marketers.  Quantitative measurements count, too.  Marketers need to use marketing research, not as a shield to hide risk aversion behind or a scapegoat for poor decisions, but as a partner in creativity, innovation and revenue creation.

Photo via Flickr User (Janitors)

Jennifer Cooper heads BuyerSynthesis, the buy-whys™ marketing research company.  Contact her at

1 thought on “Samsung’s Creative Qualitative Research

  1. Pingback: Samsung eats Apple for breakfast! | T1 2016 MPK732 Marketing Management (Cluster B)

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