This time, it’s reported that the company has been fined a $340,000 penalty for paying people to post trash-talk comments about competitor HTC’s products in customer online forums in Taiwan.
Back in April, the Fair Trade Commission in Taiwan opened an investigation into allegations that Samsung had recruited certain employees along with freelance writers from the outside to flack the shortcomings of its competitors’ products.
In addition to the company being held culpable, two of Samsung’s outside marketing firms were fined for their part in the marketing shenanigans masquerading as natural content.
This is pretty big news in the world of smartphones. HTC and Samsung are major competitors in this highly competitive marketplace, and both companies offer products that operate on the Android platform.
But Samsung’s fortunes have risen dramatically over the past year as its global smartphone market share jumped from ~19% to ~30%.
By contrast, HTC’s share declined from ~9% to slightly less than ~5% over the same period.
Evidently, Samsung couldn’t resist the temptation to kick a competitor when it was already on the ropes.
Chalk it up to the “take no prisoners” atmosphere in the cutthroat competitive world of mobile technology – the “New York Garment District mentality” writ large.
“Astro-turfing” isn’t new, of course. But the practice is usually the province of smaller companies with fewer scruples … or marketing people who are simply unaware of proper marketing etiquette (and often backed by legal opinion).
For a company as large and as sophisticated at Samsung, it does seem a little … odd. And certainly not in good form.
But as it turns out, this isn’t the first time Samsung’s gotten caught with its marketing pants down.
Just a few months ago, the company was discovered bribing various people to “talk up” its development activities – and “talk down” their competitors – during the Samsung Smart App Challenge competition.
Android developer Delyan Kratunov went public with ongoing correspondence in which a viral marketing company working for Samsung offered him $500 to cite positive mentions on the Stack Overflow online community.
The instructions were specific: Mr. Kratunov would need to ask a series of “casual and organic” questions about Samsung’s app challenge over a month-long period.
Later, the marketing company attempted to distance itself from the egregious behavior — but not before the incident had been exposed.
My response to Samsung is this: You’re already winning. There’s no need to engage in “adolescent business behavior” of this kind.
It’s in very bad form … and sooner or later it’ll come back to bite you.
Stuff like this always does eventually.