Samsung Unpacked 2: Are we in for a train wreck or a triumph?

The Korean giant's March event to unveil the Galaxy S4 drew ire and criticism, but it says it has learned its lesson for this week's launch.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 launch included musical numbers and drunk housewives. Samsung screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
When Samsung kicks off its big, splashy Unpacked event Wednesday, millions of people will be waiting for its next play in mobile. A whole other crowd will be watching to see if the event's a fiasco like the Galaxy S4 launch.

Samsung has become a marketing machine, something that has helped it overtake rivals as the world's biggest and most profitable handset vendor. But it also has had high-profile missteps. Case in point: March's Unpacked event to unveil the Galaxy S4.

Follow CNET's live coverage of Samsung Unpacked at IFA here, Wednesday, Sept. 4, starting at 9 a.m. PT.

The Korean electronics giant, in a nod to the New York venue, staged a presentation reminiscent of a Broadway show. It featured a tap-dancing kid and drunk housewives, among many other vignettes. About 4,000 people crammed into New York's Radio City Music Hall while 12 million watched the live Web cast, three times more than the Galaxy S3 launch and much more than the 1 million to 2 million expected by Samsung.

The much-hyped event was Samsung's chance to upstage rivals and draw the sort of attention typically reserved for Apple launches.

However, what many viewers found was an event out of tune with its audience. In one instance, Samsung's Air Gesture, which allows users to control the phone without touching it, was shown as a godsend to giggly women who didn't have time to set down their cocktails or dry their nail polish. For that and many other reasons, CNET's Molly Wood labeled the launch as "tone deaf," and The Verge called it a "sexist mess."

Samsung's Unpacked event in March featured various Broadway show-like vignettes. Sarah Tew/CNET
Many people appeared puzzled over the fact that the same company that put out savvy TV commercials was responsible for such a bizarre presentation. But the disconnect can be explained fairly simply -- the US team that made the clever ads, such as this one poking fun at Apple fanboys , didn't take part in the Galaxy S4 event.

It's unclear how much input Samsung's US and European branches had for the upcoming event ahead of IFA in Berlin, but several company executives, including those who manage the Unpacked events, told CNET during a recent trip to Korea that Unpacked Episode 2 would be different. It's at this event where Samsung will unveil its latest phablet, the Note 3, as well as its first smartwatch, dubbed Gear. The Korea-based marketing executives, who didn't want to be named, said they're very mindful of striking the right tone for the launch.

"We didn't really realize it until that criticism was happening, but of course we respect that kind of opinion and [will] make sure we don't [make] the same mistake again," said one Samsung representative.

Another executive noted that Samsung is trying to appeal to a mass audience with its launches, not just the tech press. That means it has to balance giving details about the product while also entertaining viewers.

Actor Will Chase kicks off Samsung's Galaxy S4 launch event in March. Sarah Tew/CNET
And another said that any attention is welcome.

"I don't know about the PR managers' opinions, but we appreciate both positive and negative buzz as it's also buzz," the executive said. "Many people were very excited and interested about our event globally."

But the executive also added that "you will have a better experience soon."

We don't really know what Samsung has in store, but CNET will have full, live coverage of the event from Berlin and New York.

For the sake of the tech industry's commentators, it will be more fun if Samsung blows it. But for the company's sake, let's hope they get it right.

In case you missed the Galaxy S4 launch, you can watch that here:

 

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