al berrios & co. & Zicklin School of Business present Keynote Address by Peter Weedfald, Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing for Samsung Electronics, "How to Spend a Hundred Million Dollars Reaching Consumers and Other Marketing Not in Textbooks"
By Al Berrios

OK, I thought the whole event went off without a hitch. But with so many details, one was overlooked - turning on the video cameras. Since I video tape all my events, I didn't forget. But since we were using newer wireless cameras, we couldn't figure out how to turn the damn things on. So I am unable to recall every wonderful detail about the event.

But here's what I do remember: I stuck to my formula of talking very little so the speaker can have most of the time to introduce himself and what he does; I sat down to hear the speaker; he said some pretty funny things; he recognized he was way over time; he gave the floor back to me. Aaaannd… that's about all I remember. Most of the time, I kept thinking about how in just 30 more minutes, this would all be over, after about 10 months of planning; I thought how cool this was for the students, roaring with laughter and how much funnier, in an intimidating, "Sopranos" kinda way Peter was, than the last time I heard him speak; I thought about all of the potential business opportunities that could result from this amazing event; I thought about the credit I would earn from my department head upon reading about this event in the school paper; I thought about twenty million things, except what the hell Peter actually said. Wouldn't you?

But I didn't completely zone out. For example, I heard his entire approach to marketing strategy, his views on his competition, and his thorough understanding of consumers. I clearly understood Peter's own career goals, his policies on employee relations across his six divisions across all of North America, and his dedication to all the communities served by Samsung. Peter assaults listeners with his manipulation of the English language (he was a publisher at Ziff-Davis for 10 years), strikes fear into you as an over-educated, ankle-gnawing, fist-throwing, cut-throat competitor (in his own approximate description), is arrogant with his knowledge of his (and your) business, yet disarmingly congenial about it all. Students loved it. Younger executives in the audience admired it. Experienced executives found it vulgar, but respected it. Everyone knows Samsung, and now they met the guy responsible for their knowing it. In the time he's been at his position, Samsung has increased the value of its brand just slightly below Sony according to BusinessWeek's annual rankings - a huge accomplishment for a brand previously considered cheap, and testimony of Peter's ability.

Peter has no qualms about being direct. He doesn't give interviews to trade publications because he doesn't believe company secrets should be out there for competitors to exploit. If competitors observed his strategy, rather than "pontificating" about their plans, they might stand a chance against him. But at the same time, at his level, competitors are also partners, so their strategic screw-ups, as beneficial to him as they are, also affect him.

He didn't advocate any strategy or media as more important than the other (although he had some pretty convincing arguments about a couple of them), but instead, opened our minds and eyes to choice. He empowered the audience. Which is what he believes he's doing to his customers with this strategy.

Success lies in consumer choice (a concept I've personally advocated and advised on since I founded this firm), and Samsung is proving it. Peter said it more eloquently, though, by reminding us that "brand is the refuge of the ignorant" and it's a fine balancing act for marketers to offer confused consumers a choice between consistency and complexity. But the key is always choice, the same way you like a choice between your vendors and their alternatives to your problems.

Which opened up another fascinating can of worms. His perception of ad agencies and media companies is drastically different than what you'd expect to read about in a trade publication. He acknowledges their usefulness, but simultaneously explained how they're not useful for everything he needs to accomplish in his strategy - an explanation not generally accepted by agencies and media for fear of irrelevancy. It's apparent that reading the trades simply gives you the nice-pat-on-the-back version of the industry. In reality, it's far from that, particularly from powerful executives who actually demand performance from their marketing investment. Peter is reminiscent of executives like CJ Fraleigh at GM, Steve Heyer at Coca-Cola, and James Stengel at P&G.

They remind the marketing world that their buying power doesn't give us a reason to consolidate to negotiate better with them. In fact, they don't care, as long as we give them the abiliy and opportunity to reach their customers at a reasonable (read: non-extortionary) price. (If you think about the implications of this wish, then you pretty much understand what executives at Peter's level generally think about the current ad agency/media establishment).

  Overall, I wouldn't say that this event was a prime networking opportunity. Although there were many big companies in attendance, it was intended to be an academic discussion, to younger, curious minds, about strategy and marketing in the consumer electronics marketplace.

It was an ideal presentation of al berrios & co.'s adamant belief that addressing consumers and their behavior is key for the success of any business strategy. Folks were networking, of course, and if one of you originates business from this event, please let me know. But, the scale wasn't yet there. And although Peter made himself accessible to attendees, I believe he did it in the context of sharing insights, not business.

With regards to an al berrios & co. Event, although we've got 9 other events under our belt, this would be as good as any occasion to officially launch an Events division, dedicated to organizing events I believe are of high quality, academically, and eventually, professionally. After all, if I can't offer you advice, I might as well help you learn.

For the use of the venue, I'd like to thank Baruch College; for sponsoring our food, I'd like to thank Zicklin School of Business' Marketing Department; for the wonderful food, I'd like to thank Flute Bar; and for the refreshing beverages, I'd like to thank Energy Brands as the official drink sponsor of this event; And most importantly, I'd like to thank my students in Copywriting 4130 - without them, this event would never have happened.

> "2003 Corporate Image Conference: Going Beyond the Expected"


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