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For Samsung, the 'Next Big Thing' is a bunch of little things

Marc Mathieu, Samsung's new North American marketing chief, tells CNET how the company will get you excited about tech again.

David Carnoy / CNET

Marc Mathieu, Samsung's North American marketing chief, wants to convince consumers that a phone isn't just a phone. Instead, it is the "center of an ecosystem of other products and services."

Shara Tibken/CNET

Samsung's "Next Big Thing" marketing push from five years ago propelled the company to the top of the smartphone market. Now, the company must figure out how to stay there.

The man assigned to that task is Marc Mathieu, chief marketing officer for Samsung's North American operations, which include televisions, home appliances and mobile devices. In the year since he was hired from Unilever, Mathieu has been looking for a way to top the Next Big Thing campaign spearheaded by his predecessor, Todd Pendleton.

Mathieu's solution? A new campaign that features people doing everyday activities with their Galaxy devices, like going for a run while using the company's new Gear Fit 2 fitness band. It's centered on four "collections:" Go, Explore, Create and Move. It was "Move" that Samsung touted last week when it introduced its Gear Fit 2 fitness band and Icon X Bluetooth earbuds.

"It's recognizing the phone is in the center of an ecosystem of other products and services and even experiences powered by the phone," Mathieu said in an interview at Samsung's Gear Fit 2 launch late last week in New York. "To market the totality of our ecosystem, we needed to cut it into pieces that make sense to consumers."

As smartphone sales slow, Samsung and other tech heavy hitters are pushing other devices surrounding the phone. They're trying to create a world of devices that talk to one another, all in the name of bringing ever more convenience into your life. The challenge will be in persuading you to fork over money for these pricey gadgets. Convenience doesn't come cheap, after all. Samsung hopes by highlighting groups of devices and services that work well together, consumers will be willing to buy them all.

"This is a necessary move," Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said. "It's important to keep momentum but also to get people to buy other stuff and not just phones."

One way Samsung will do that is through discounts. Already, the company is bundling devices together. Anyone who preordered the Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge earlier this year got a free Gear VR headset. Samsung offered that promotion again last week. And if you preorder the Galaxy S7 Active, announced Monday and available only at AT&T, you'll get a Gear S2 or 8-inch Galaxy Tab E tablet for 99 cents.

Samsung will offer more bundles throughout the year, but not every collection will have to be tied to a promotional offer, Mathieu said.

"Before we've been about two big phone moments in the year," he said, referring to the winter launch of the Galaxy S and the fall launch of the Galaxy Note.

Get ready to see more, smaller pushes in between.

As for its other themes, "Go" encompasses devices like the Gear S2 smartwatch and features like Samsung Pay, while "Explore" highlights how the Gear VR virtual reality headset works with the Galaxy S7 smartphone.

The fourth collection, "Explore," will be Samsung's campaign for the last quarter, centered on the Gear 360 VR camera and other new products Samsung will announce later this year. Mathieu wouldn't say what new products Samsung will launch in 2016 or when the Gear 360 will hit the US market. It's already on sale in South Korea.

Samsung hopes all of those devices get you excited about tech again, whether it's wearables, VR or something else. And eventually, you'll realize you need a new phone, too.

"People look at the latest phones and say, 'Do I need a new phone today versus the ones I had before?'" Mathieu said. "We have to say what's new, improved and significantly better" and create excitement over "how a phone is more than a phone."