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I’ve been following the Samsung PR crisis.

In the spirit of balanced reporting, this is what a Samsung Note7 looks like before it catches fire:note7When things go awry as they have with the Samsung Note, it’s easy to forget that “connection” underpins every brand. What is the consumer’s level of passion for the brand? How deeply do they feel connected to the brand?

Samsung has made a massive investment in branding over the years. Rewinding the tape to the early 2000s, business publications were proclaiming the genius of Eric Kim for turning a company that made a decent microwave into a brand coveted by the cool kids. That’s not an easy transition. It takes guts, creativity and money.

Lots of money.

While the Samsung stock is going to take a hit, and you’ll read in the coming days about Zoe in Toledo who loved her Samsung phone and now doesn’t, the reality is that all this brand equity doesn’t disappear from one debacle.

First things first.

It starts with the products. For all those Samsung fans, their experiences with the actual products — not clever advertising or humorous videos — drive the emotional connection (there’s that word again). Samsung needs to get its act together in the creation and manufacturing of future products. The fact that the replacement Note also had a knack for catching fire can be considered Samsung’s mulligan, albeit, a costly one. Going forward, they’re operating with zero margin for error.

Moving to the next level, the communications matter.

Words matter.

Samsung’s customers want to hear honest talk about why things went wrong and what the company has in mind for righting the ship.

Take a look at Samsung’s official statement offered up on Tuesday.

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Where’s the humanity?

Where’s the expression of empathy for customers?

Consumers are supposed to feel “heartened” that Samsung is working  — no make that “working diligently” — with regulatory authorities?

Even the verb tense “Samsung will ask …” is weird as if the request is still on the company’s to-do list.

Ironically, I think Samsung recognizes that its statement misses the mark. I say this because all those Samsungites sitting in the war room must have anticipated that people wanting more information would be plugging phrases into Google like [Samsung Note7 Fire] and [Problems with Note7]. Yet, when you search on these phrases, Samsung’s position and statement are nowhere to be found.

It turns out that Samsung never optimized the statement for search. In fact, they didn’t bother with a title tag, so Google defaulted to the headline.

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Given that Google allows 50 to 60 characters in a title tag, the words “Galaxy Note7” don’t even make the tag.

As a result, searches on Galaxy Note7 don’t turn up Samsung’s statement.

From a branding perspective, maybe that’s a good thing.

I’m reminded of Toyota back in 2010 when that pesky gas pedal malfunction caused a massive recall. In spite of early missteps, the company eventually took the painful steps — plenty of mea culpas — to win back the public’s trust. Today, Toyota is the largest car maker in the world.

Likewise, it’s possible for Samsung to emerge from the crisis a better company. But it means looking at the issue through the eyes of consumers, not attorneys.


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