Will Samsung always be Pepsi to Apple's Coke?

A model holds Samsung's first 'curved' smartphone Galaxy Round, a 5.7-inch handset with a display that is slightly rounded on both sides, at the Electronics and IT Industry Fair in Goyang, north of Seoul, on October 10, 2013.

Samsung reported record profits in its third quarter earnings report. The smartphone maker has sold more than 40 million Galaxy S4 phones. That makes it the biggest smartphone retailer in the world. But when it comes to branding, Apple is still number one.

Poor Samsung. The electronics giant has sold twice as many smartphones as Apple, but when it comes to branding, Apple is way ahead. This year, Apple replaced Coca-Cola as the biggest brand in the world -- Samsung is number 8 on the list. So will Samsung always be Pepsi to Apple’s coke? 

“Well, you know, being in the top ten isn’t that bad,” says Pradeep Chintagunta, a professor of marketing at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He says with its background in manufacturing appliances, washing machines, driers and refrigerators, Samsung has traditionally been very strong at catering to the functional needs of consumers. Apple, on the other hand, is focused on our emotions and aspirations. “What people would call the cool factor,” he says.    

And the cool factor -- ad campaigns like “Think Different” and shiny, white iProducts -- can be more appealing and resonant than plain vanilla functionality, no matter how much we need it, or how well it sells, he says.

Michael Morgan, an analyst with ABI research, says when it comes to selling complex electronic devices like smart phones, brand is incredibly important. 

“I could put a chip in front of 99 percent of the population and say is this a good computer chip or not? Nobody could tell,” he says. 

Morgan notes that that’s where Apple has been particularly successful: setting itself apart as a purveyor of smartphones. Apple is seen as a byword for quality, reliability, and cool. Not that Samsung hasn’t done well --  it’s closing the gap between itself and Apple. 

“Moving up at the same pace they’re increasing their phone sales which is borderline astronomical,” Morgan says. 

As far as being Pepsi, well, Samsung is already well ahead in that race: Pepsi is ranked at number 22 on the list of most powerful global brands.  

2013 Rank 2012 Rank Brand Brand Name Region/Country Sector Brand Value ($m) Change in Brand Value
1
2 Apple United States Technology 98,316 28%
2
4 Google United States Technology 93,291 34%
3
1 Coca-Cola United States Beverages 79,213 2%
4
3 IBM United States Business Services 78,808 4%
5
5 Microsoft United States Technology 59,546 3%
6
6 GE United States Diversified 46,947 7%
7
7 McDonald's United States Restaurants 41,992 5%
8
9 Samsung South Korea Technology 39,610 20%
9
8 Intel United States Technology 37,257 -5%
10
10 Toyota Japan Automotive 35,346 17%

 

(Source: Interbrand. See more from their report here)  

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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