Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. spends billions of dollars every year to promote its smartphones around the world, but as it prepares to launch its latest flagship handsets, the South Korean technology giant is removing its own name from the devices in some of its most important markets.
In China, Japan and even South Korea, Samsung will sell its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge smartphones without the Samsung logo that appears on the front of the devices in all other markets.
When Samsung gave the new smartphones their debuts at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week, the company showcased handsets that featured the Samsung logo emblazoned above their screens, as is typical with all such devices marketed by the firm.
However, in China, Japan and South Korea, Samsung has chosen to completely remove the Samsung logo from the front of the smartphones, although it remains on the rear of the handsets. The company has not responded to several requests to explain why it has made this decision.
On Samsung’s Chinese and South Korean websites, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge appear without the company branding on the front, while on its U.S. site, both smartphones are shown with the branding. The branding also was removed from the front of the handsets on the firm’s Japanese site, but this is not a new practice in that country. In 2015, Samsung removed its name from the front of its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge devices, again without explaining why.
While Samsung would not reveal why it made this decision, there are a number of theories that could explain the move.
One theory is that this development is simply the result of a production malfunction. “[Maybe] somewhere along the production process, something got delayed, and rather than take more time to add the branding, they are going to sell the devices as they are,” Imran Choudhary, an analyst with Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, told International Business Times.
Given that Samsung’s smartphones destined for the U.S. are manufactured in the same place as smartphones made for China, however, this seems unlikely.
Another theory is that Samsung has removed the branding in a bid to copy Apple Inc. All iPhones have absolutely no branding on the front, with the company logo appearing on the rear cover to indicate the handset is an iPhone.
Neil Shah, mobile analyst with CounterPoint Technology Market Research, said the removal of the Samsung wording would make the design more pristine. “If you look at the iPhone, the logo is only on the back, and the design from the front speaks for itself, the iconic iPhone design,” Shah told IBT. “So Samsung could be trying the same, making the front with curved edges look more appealing without a textual logo.”
However, a more logical explanation may be that Samsung is simply responding to tough conditions. It is no secret the company, like many of its competitors, is struggling in the smartphone market. Its share of that market has plummeted in recent years — to a little more than 21 percent now from 32 percent in 2012 — and in China it has even dropped out of the top five smartphone vendors, lagging local players such as Huawei Technology Co. Ltd. and Xiaomi Inc.
One of the reasons for this drop in market share could be associated with a negative connotation for the Samsung brand, meaning the removal of the company name from the front of the new smartphones could constitute a ploy to get people typically uninterested in Samsung devices to pick up one of the handsets.
“This [move] is perhaps taking into account some testing [Samsung] did to reveal that people warm more to the handset initially when they realize it isn’t a Samsung,” Choudhary said. “Perhaps this is a ploy to try and stop any anti-Samsung sentiment coming through, where consumers may give the device less of a chance simply because it is a Samsung.”
The smartphone market has become increasingly crowded, making it more difficult for companies to differentiate their products without strong branding, which makes Samsung’s move seem all the more strange.
However, Ian Fogg, mobile analyst at IHS, told IBT that even without the branding on the front, the Galaxy S7 edge smartphone will still stand out. “The device itself is very strongly visibly differentiated because of Samsung industrial design, and particularly with the edge model, it is completely unique to have that dual-edge display.”
Asked whether this Samsung practice was likely to be expanded into other markets, the analysts generally replied it probably would be done on a case-by-case basis.
If the company’s leaders find it best to make the Samsung brand comparatively less visible and the design elements comparatively more visible, Shah said, “They will eventually will [expand this practice] for its specific, iconic and highly differentiated designs.” However, Shah added that in emerging markets where the Samsung brand is required to drive sales, especially in the midrange, brand visibility will be preferred over the design.
And Fogg pointed out that because Samsung spends so much on marketing all of its diverse range of consumer goods under the company brand, he expects to see the brand remain on most of its smartphones to take advantage of the halo effect of all that marketing.