Heathrow allows Samsung to confuse travelers because money

The Terminal Galaxy S5, Heathrow, and the value of just saying 'no'

Update: Heathrow has sent iMore a clarification to what Samsung is actually doing — and not doing — at Terminal 5

I awoke this morning to the news that Heathrow Airport in the U.K was going to allow Terminal 5 — reportedly the busiest terminal in the world — to be rebranded as 'Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5' for two weeks. I immediately checked the source link to make sure it wasn't a lesser Onion-style satirical outlet, and the date to make sure it wasn't April 1st. Neither were the case. Via Android Central:

Russell Taylor, Vice President, Corporate Marketing, at Samsung Electronics UK & Ireland, said: "We are always looking for ways to maximise brand impact and this activity is testament to that. The partnership with Heathrow Airport and JCDecaux Airport was a one-off opportunity to push the boundaries like no other brand has been allowed to do before."

The initiative includes all signage throughout the Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5 terminal – at the entrance and drop-off locations, in the lounges, at security and at the gates. In addition, all 172 digital panels in the main terminal, gate rooms and baggage reclaim areas will feature the rebrand 'Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5' and images of the Galaxy S5 smartphone.

I used to work in product marketing. I understand branding all too well. People buy what they're familiar and comfortable with. The more they see and hear about your brand the more familiar and comfortable they become with it and the more likely they are to choose it over a lesser-known competitor. That Samsung approaches brand marketing with a crassness matched only by their billions-of-dollars in ad spend should come as a surprise to exactly no one. If left to their own devices, I'm sure Samsung would be more than happy to have their logo mass-driver-etched on the moon.

But that's why human beings evovled the word "no", and that's why Heathrow should have used it.

Not because Heathrow doesn't need the money Samsung is offering — I'm sure they have many important, maybe even vital needs for it — but because it's bad for their customers, for the travelers who have to make their way through Terminal 5, which is stressful enough during the best of times. For the travelers who don't need the extra confusion, incoherence, and insanity of having to hear, see, and figure out a Galaxy S5 gilded terminal when all they want to do is find their gate and get on their plane.

A while ago the large downtown movie theater in Montreal changed its name from the Famous Players to Scotia Bank Theatre (Cinema Banque Scotia). I can't tell you how much confusion and chaos that's caused when I try to meet visiting friends to catch a movie. Who expects to see a movie at a place that's branded as a bank? Probably the same number of people who expect to catch a plane at a terminal branded as a phone.

Advertising is tricky. Ideally you want advertising to captivate and delight potential customers. You want to show them how your products and/or services can help them and improve their lives. You never want to cross the line into hindering and annoying them because that creates negative brand association. You never want to become the jackhole company that got in their way and made it hard for them to find their movie or get where they're going. That's the line that's being walked here. Maybe crossed.

Samsung has engaged in an unprecedented marketing campaign for their Galaxy S series as well as more than a few truly distasteful, unethical shenanigans along the way. I hope they remain alone in that but I fear they won't. It's tempting to plead for a return to the best kind of marketing — making truly amazing products that engage customers. However, that didn't help Palm or Nokia and isn't helping HTC. The truth is you need both amazing products and amazing brand awareness. Samsung feels like they're putting too much effort and economics behind the second of those and not enough behind the first. There can be a better balance.

Likewise Heathrow could placard Samsung all over their terminal without ceding the terminal itself or customer experience in the process. They could use sponsored technology to make the terminal and travel experience better not just branded. Hell, give every weary, anxious traveler a free beverage in a Samsung festooned cup. Something, anything, that leaves them better off than before the brand interaction. Anything that strikes a better balance.

So what does this have to do with Apple and why am I writing about it on iMore? Because it matters to me as a technology consumer. It matters to me that, at the very least, it becomes a subject of discussion. Today it's Samsung, tomorrow LG or someone else and then... who knows. How much more slippery can the slope we're on become before we're buried in branding?

Every inch of our attention taken is a mile of our experience lost. I don't think Apple would ever go for this kind of marketing, but I don't want a world where Apple is the only choice, the only viable company aligned with my interests as a consumer.

Do you?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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The Terminal Galaxy S5, Heathrow, and the value of just saying 'no'


While I agree, bloggers are giving Samesung even more visibility by discussing this. They get way more of their value and visibility when that happens... even if its in a negative light. In fact I think they sometimes want the negative light... why else would they copy-cat their way to where they are today? Ethics seems to mean zero for many of these companies and our consumers blindly vote them a big old "OK" with their wallets when they buy their cheap oversized clone phones... whats to stop em.

Why are Apple fanboys afraid of competition? Do you realize what your iPhone would be like if Samsung or Google didn't exist?

What does this have to do with competition? Was Apple also bidding on Terminal 5? Did they lose out on the promotion to Samsung?

gopherhockey seemed to be implying (s)he didn't like the fact bloggers are giving Samsung visibility. (S)he also mentioned Samsung copying. It's a two way street. Sure, Samsung makes rectangular devices with rounded corners, but iOS has added a notification drawer, quick settings, etc. This is what it has to do with competition. Who cares if they build off of each other's ideas? It makes better products for everyone!

That's kinda BS. Samsung has "copied" far beyond any and every other manufacturer on the market, down to the cable design. Also, Apple hired the people they "copied" notification center, cards, etc. from, which may not excuse it but at least brought them on board.

I kinda agree about better products for everyone, but I also don't want everything to be the same. Samsung has branched out over the last few years, which I appreciate, but what I like about Nokia and HTC is that they're different and great.

If you are talking about Samsung's products from the 2010 era, then yes, they went overboard on the copying. Today's products are vastly different. One could argue it's Apple copying Samsung, if they come out with a 5"+ iPhone. But who cares? It's more choices!

I think Apple copying Neonode's slide to unlock, and patenting it as their own, along with many other ideas and patents they filed and claim are their own is just as bad morally as what Samsung did in 2010. Steve Jobs had lawyers who would patent anything and everything, regardless of whose idea it was.

But I am past all this. Why aren't you? Why isn't gopherhockey?

Just to set things clear: Samsung is my least favorite Android device manufacturer. I currently own 6 Android devices, 2 iPhones, and a Lumia 1020. There are annoyances on all of them, and I hope having this many choices only leads to all of them improving in the future.

They're not afraid of competition. They're just kicking themselves in the behind because they didn't think of the idea first.

If Samsung has the money, and if the airport is willing to accept the offer, it's not my place to say no. Let the free market prevail. My opinion would not change if this were Apple instead.

The free market is subject to both regulation and consumer push-back. It is absolutely your place to say.

That's why, for example, Playboy couldn't buy nude billboards in Heathrow no matter how much money they offered, and if they did, why there'd be consumer reaction.

I think you just proved my point. Your entire basis for this post was based on the company being Samsung, a competitor to Apple. And this is your way of pushing back.

To be honest, Rene, I don't think I'd be opposed to Playboy putting billboards in an airport, just as long as they're not raunchy, lol.

yep... wonder what people here would say if Apple did this.

"it's GENIUS!", "awesome!", "iAirport!".....?

maybe we need to blame the airport, and not Samsung. they want money and money talks. Samsung is just doing their job...

So serious question, if it was Apple...full on honesty, would you be writing the same article?

Now don't get me wrong Rene, I do NOT like this at all. It's not because it's Samsung, but I find it to be just ridiculous. But hey...it's money. Money runs this world more than anything. This is common knowledge.

But I am curious if this is simply an issue with Samsung? Or a true issue with the extent that marketing/brand placement has been taken.

Because if so, shouldn't you be angry with the Apple Store in Grand Central? Grand Central station is iconic. One of the most recognizable hubs in America. So in MY eyes, Apple placing an actual store in Grand Central is a bigger affront than Samsung having the terminal branded for a few weeks. After those weeks, nobody will even remember it. I'm more than sure it will be a passing fancy.

But with Grand Central, every time you walk into there, you see Apple. Yes, it's a store, but I'm sure you would agree that the placement of this is no more marketing and brand placement than Samsung buying the renaming of a terminal for a few weeks.

I would be very happy in a response to this question.

I'm not a fan of product placement, I hate seeing it in films and tv programmes, if anything it puts me off the product more than it would encourage me to purchase it. This is taking it one step further and quite frankly it would annoy me walking through the airport and seeing that. I'm with you on this one Rene.

I couldn't agree more. Navigating airports is complicated enough. Add in that this is an international airport with many non-english speakers and compound the issue. Designers spend years developing signage which enables people to move quickly through an airport to their flights. This is no place for advertising. I'm kind of surprised this wasn't stopped by a safety review.

You definitely come across as a curmudgeon in this one Rene. I get that you don't like branding everywhere, but things evolve. Why shouldn't a movie theatre take over a bank space? Why would you care? Tell your friends to look for the old bank that's now a movie theatre, how hard is that? Do you also not like re-branding ball parks when they get a new sponsor? It's part of life at this point.

As for Heathrow, it's a two week stunt. I'm sure everyone will be properly informed during the time it's happening to avoid confusion.

If I'm Heathrow and a private company is offering millions for some advertising campaign like this, I would have a hard time saying no. The money could be used for new capital equipment or needed renovations at effectively no cost to the taxpayers.

I do agree that it's a pretty tacky campaign by Samsung which doesn't really enhance their brand. Targeted ads such as "For those on the go" might work better. Not saying Apple's latest iPhone ad is great either though.

Posted via the Android iMore App!

I both agree and disagree with you on this article, Rene. I agree, because, as is, airports can be confusing and possibly rebranding a terminal could cause some confusion, especially for people that may not be well-acquainted with said airport.

I disagree, because I feel that if Samsung's willing to pay the money and if the airport can meet Samsung's marketing expectations and reasonably accommodate consumers, then it's a win-win for everyone involved. Also, I don't know of too many airports that have rebranded terminals for advertising, so, this may be an experiment.

As long as it is really the terminal Galaxy, and not just any ol' penultimate one... I am fine with it.

The one mistake you make here is the same one you have sometimes accused "Apple should put more into tech and less into lawyers" critics of making - the implicit assumption that resources are perfectly fungible. Samsung spends a lot (too much, for my tastes) on marketing, but a dollar not spent on marketing (or lawyering) does not necessarily translate into an additional dollar on engineering or product design - they are different units with different skill sets and constraints.

Sent from the iMore App

This is OTT for something that is only around for 2 weeks, and I hardly expect users to suddenly get confused or anything else. Samsung has the money, so what. I also highly doubt this would have been an issue if it was a certain fruit logo instead of Samsung.

Also the point about Samsung not putting enough into their hardware I think is wrong, users like Samsung devices, there always right behind apple on satisfaction rating, I have not seen Nokia or HTC ahead of them for a good amount of time. They might not focus all their money into the design or build, but I think us nerds tend to have a tendency to believe all users care about that. I have friends with HTC M7/M8, friends with iPhones 5/5s, friends with S4/S5 and they all put it in the same crappy plastic case. The money/time that all these companies spend into the design and build sort of disappears.

Samsung lives off the good enough, everything about the S5 is good, not great, and it has proven time and time again, if your product is good enough and you get the marketing right you success. Again HTC/Nokia didn't have good enough products, HTC had a line of product that used crappy bloated software, sub par battery life, Nokia had sub par software, touch technology and so on. Outside of having lovely devices if the overall experience is bad, it is hardly a redeaming fact.

Moreover today we have a HTC M8, that focused so much on reaching 90% metal, a fact I have never heard anyone in the real word use, they dropped the ball and released the same camera hardware, have a huge bezel on the front, IMO degraded in design, its much harder to hold since it is so curvy. The biggest fault of the M7 was the camera, everyone loved the design, be it a Android fan or iOS fan, yet they decided to focus the bulk of the money/resource on improving that, and stalled on the camera, the weakest spot of the device. Makes no sense too me

I'm with you on this, Rene. I would've been fine with Samsung being allowed to have a little kiosk in there showing off the S5 or whatever, but they shouldn't be allowed to re-name a terminal (if only temporarily) because of the potential confusion it could cause. The last thing people need in an airport (especially an airport they're not familiar with) is more confusion and difficulty finding the terminal they're looking for.

I like your idea of having company-sponsored technology in there as a subtle form of advertising, like maybe some new Samsung screens that display arrival and departure times, that sort of thing. That'd be much more tasteful and discreet.

Rene is right about brand marketing. And companies keeping their name out there does make people feel (IMore) comfortable about a brand. That's why Samsung does it. Along with every big corporation out there. They buy naming rights to Ball Barks, Sports Cars, City Buildings, highways, etc. That's business. And the companies and airports that let them do it our also doing business. So if you have something that your okay with selling the naming rights too and you turned down an offer from Samsung or anyone else for that matter, then your not doing your business. So there's nothing wrong with what either Samsung or Heathrow have done here. So it's a non story. And if people can't grasp that S5 is terminal 5 them God help them!

Let us wait till we see how much blanketed the ad campaign will be. Perhaps, it may be tastefully done, without coming in the way of signages and not hampering travellers.

First of all, I completely agree with Rene that money and advertising has yet again encroached on the wellbeing of citizens. Not that it's a matter of life and death, but think of the needs of the average passenger or even the risk of crowding where there wasn't one before. Unfortunately, this is par the course for our society as a whole. Ten years ago, this might have been exposed in the media as the ridiculous stunt that it is - but not now. Now we expect it and so no one says anything. This story actually reminds me, a musician, of how songs from the popular American songbook have worked their way into yogurt and tire commercials. Sure they can use Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan to sell car insurance...but should they? No one is protecting whatever sacred institutions we still have left.

Our arena used to be called the Bi-Lo Center, named for a grocery store chain. Now it's the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, named for a hospital. I hate corporate naming!

Interesting way to wake up, right Rene? For my two cents I don't like over the top hype by anybody. I prefer ads that promote their products and performance and not trash other peoples choices. As for something like Samsungs hype vs actual ads I find it annoying because of the discrepancy of what was actually done. That Heathrow issued a statement seems to show this was not how they thought this campaign would go.