The Weird, The Bad, And The Samsung

A few years ago, T-Mobile hired a very excitable PR team to hold “parties” for their big launches. They would trot out celebrities, rent out whole downtown clubs, and try to make each launch – remember the Sidekick? – into a major event. Then T-Mobile basically imploded and all that rigmarole thankfully stopped. But that strange impetus to turn the launch of a CE device that, arguably, millions of people will buy, into a circus is a horrible one. Something just happened (I blame the economy) that is making these unproductive, ridiculous displays of absolute insanity happen more and more and it helps no one, least of all us, the consumers.

Samsung can’t be blamed for holding their wild-eyed exploration of all things SG4. This is a big phone for them and, historically, their on-stage events have been snooze fests consisting of one executive after the other lolling onto the stage to read five lines from the teleprompter. First the dude with the phones would hop on, talk about three phones. Then maybe the MP3-player guy (back when that was a thing). Then the dude with the fridges would come out and some lady would roll a fridge out. Then you’d go home.

But this time Samsung actually invited SG fans, allowing them to register for seats at GDGT and come in for the really big shoe. That’s right: they sold tickets.

So what does all this mean? It means Samsung saw a chance to make a splash. I think they over-reached. The company recently swapped out a lot of their PR team and they were probably tired of looking like a bunch of stuffed shirts on stage. Was this presentation tone-deaf? Absolutely. Was it sexist? No more than any other shoddily-produced Broadway show but sure. Was it a show that proved that Samsung thinks of itself as being on top of the world? Absolutely.

It’s also an example of what happens when self-regard runs amok. Forty million Galaxy SIIIs have been sold and the world was clamoring for the next phone. I get that. I’ll get a kick out of trying the phone when it drops in April. But this is CE, not the Big Apple Circus. It smacks of desperation and insanity to rent out the biggest hall in New York so some orange-faced actor and a stilted marketing manager can banter about software updates. The show came off not as crazy fun but crazy crazy.

This has been happening quite a bit lately (Remember Qualcomm’s Big-Bird-infused freakfest at CES? Remember the four-hour Plato’s Cave at the PS4 launch?) and it needs to stop. It shows these guys have more money than sense. Just because you can have an all-singing-all-dancing cast of thousands on stage doesn’t mean you have to. The phone/chip/laptop/fridge is the star here. Don’t make it about you.