Death of the Cool, Dawn of the Weird?

The strange unveiling of the Galaxy S 4 might be just the latest entry in the Theater of the Bizarre that has overtaken mobile marketing recently. If this peculiar trend continues, then cell phone advertising could get very interesting in coming months.

When they introduced the iPhone, Apple effectively set the bar for “cool” in the cellular industry. Since then, they’ve continued to redefine and raise that bar by staying on the cutting edge of innovation and by steeping their marketing in the message that “owning an iPhone will make you cool.” Other phone manufacturers, notably Samsung, were quick to get in the game and broadcast similar messages, but following in someone’s footsteps will never put you in front of them—Apple still holds the largest share of the market and the iPhone 5 is the #1 selling phone as of February 2013. (Source: VentureBeat). It was time to change the game.

The Gears of Weird started turning in January, when the company formerly known as RIM unveiled their new OS, BlackBerry 10. It was hard to look away from the cheesy George-Clooney-on-drugs MC—he seemed like he could become unhinged at any moment. Then there was the public beheading of CrackBerry Kevin’s ponytail—he’d vowed to grow it until the BlackBerry 10 arrived, and they took him on his word. Finally, after introducing the new name, the new phones, and the new OS, CEO/President Thorsten Heins introduced Grammy-winning R&B artist Alicia Keys as the new global creative director, because…well, we’ll get back to you on that.

Did your phone come with a free haircut?

Following that, Virgin Mobile decided to let their marketing department go off the deep end, too, as evidenced in this commercial, which features Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. It’s part visual art, part brainwashing, and it may have subliminally commanded me to feature it in an article:

Not to be outdone, Samsung decided to prove that they could out-weird anyone at their Galaxy S 4 launch just last week. The peculiar parade of bad actors and bad jokes, an elaborate set (presumably inspired by Barbie’s Malibu Dream House), an orchestra, a sideways car, and some awkward dance numbers—it definitely got people talking. The buzz about the strangeness of the show may even have drowned out those who are saying the S 4 isn’t that different from the S 3. Maybe that was Samsung’s intention. Either way, they upped the ante for absurd mobile marketing and I expect we’ll see more of it soon. Will Apple take the bait and go bizarre, or will they stick to their tried and true approach? I guess we’ll find out!

Do you think Samsung is brilliantly pioneering a weird, divergent marketing strategy, or just compensating for a potentially underwhelming new phone? Let us know in the comments!


Brent Urmey is an avid reader and writer on a variety of subjects, including social media, SEO, the Wireless industry, and life in Lancaster County, PA. He is a graduate of Drexel University and a survivor of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. You can connect with Brent on Google +.