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Pio Schunker Talks

Pio Schunker

Marketing and Technology


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Trendsetters:  Samsung's Pio Schunker Talks About What It Takes to be a Meaningful Brand Today

Few marketers have experienced the extraordinary heights and dramatic challenges that have characterized Pio Schunker's career of the past few years.

Now, as Senior Vice President, Head of Global Brand Marketing for the Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, he joined the flagship mobile division in 2015, following a decade at Coca-Cola, where he executed breakthrough integrated marketing initiatives for the company's 10 largest brands.  

Then, in September 2016 as the Samsung was transitioning from a strong tech player to a true lifestyle brand, Samsung experienced its unfortunate Galaxy Note 7 smartphone crisis.  As many will remember, Samsung recalled 2.5 million Note 7s-- literally weeks after they went on sale-- in response to reports that the phones were catching fire and exploding, and as airlines banned the product from flights. 

Speaking at the ANA's Masters of Marketing in October, Pio Schunker admitted, "Just when things were starting to go right, things went horribly wrong. Overnight, we were faced with our biggest challenge to date: a battery malfunction that threatened to permanently damage Samsung's business and its reputation." 

He went on to candidly discuss how Samsung tackled the brand crisis by focusing on regaining consumer trust.  The company accepted accountability and took decisive action through more stringent quality control measures.   Samsung enlisted 700 independent researchers to test 200,000 phones and 30,000 batteries, while employing a third-party auditor. 

The massive effort did rebuild the brand.  In fact, the 2017 launches of the Galaxy S8 and Note8 were both huge successes. Samsung even moved from Number 7 to Number 6 in The Interbrand Ranking of Top Global Brands, with a valuation of $56.2 billion.

Pio Schunker's comments about the Note 7 incident were philosophical as much as they were emotional: "Today, being a meaningful brand means also to be human," which he stated includes a point of view and purpose, along with fallibility. He added, "When you allow for that fallibility to show, you earn the very thing you set out for in the beginning—brand love."

Interestingly, Intuit's Chief Marketing & Sales Officer, Lucas Watson, shared a similar idea his address at the ANA's Digital Conference in July 2017.  He asked, "How are you moving your brand from brand identity to brand humanity?"  Watson believes that as we move into a world enriched by AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning), AR (Augmented Reality), and auditory learning, our brands should start to become more human. In developing a brand identity, he sees the new marketing undertaking as humanizing a brand to create a personality, a voice, a heartbeat, and ultimately, a human connection to an audience. 

In other words, according to Watson, "a brand should not be defined by the technology by which it is delivered, but by the experience and connection it creates with users."

For Samsung, some of that humanity came to life in the advertising designed to "repair and rebuild" the brand post-crisis, while also introducing the Galaxy 8.  One of the most memorable (and most awarded) videos features an ostrich who wants to fly as part of the introduction for Samsung's Gear VR headset. 

Certainly, Samsung chose not to bury its head in the sand during the crisis, so an optimistic and inspiring ostrich who ultimately soars helped in contributing to the sales success of the Galaxy S8, and, to the esteem of all Samsung employees, customers and stakeholders.  The spot also introduces the "Do What You Can't" Tagline.

View the video here:

Ostrich ad

In an always-on, 24/7 transparent social media world, brand crises are inevitable. Samsung showed heroic efforts that were rewarded with stellar results by focusing on 3 key elements:

  1. Take accountability for the problem.
  2. Take meaningful action.
  3. Be transparent.

 While neither simple, nor formulaic, these rules, combined with a fast response, made a difference to the brand and its consumers.

 Pio Schunker is primarily responsible for brand and product campaign development, digital/social efforts, and experiential marketing at Samsung, where he has executed holistic campaigns for the global mobile market, like the recent launch of Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

 Prior to joining Samsung in 2015, Mr. Schunker created seamless and iconic marketing campaigns for some of the world's most recognized brands, including Mercedes-Benz, American Express, and Coca-Cola. His efforts helped contribute to the Coca-Cola Company winning the Inaugural Clio for Icon Brand of the Year, the Inaugural Grand Prix at Cannes for Design, Cannes Marketer of the Year, and its first ever Emmy Award win.