Samsungâ??s recent launch of the Galaxy S4 smartphone in New York has been marred by its rather old-fashioned ideas about the interaction between women and technology…
CNET editor Molly Wood called it â??shockingly sexistâ? and we tend to agree
But earlier that week, at its Africa Forum in Cape Town, Samsung was guilty of even more stereotyping and tawdry marketing tactics.
It demoed a range of fridges with bikini-clad dancers handing out water bottles and launched a range of â??Wobbleâ?? washing machines complete with the same barely pubescent dancers shaking their stuff in swimsuits.
As far as we can tell, women love Samsung products and are some of the main users of Galaxy phones and their like, and the company has some great ideas for alleviating the problems of women in poor, rural areas.
So why would the company go out of its way to alienate us?
The same feelings motivated Samantha Perry, one of South Africaâ??s most experienced technology journalists, to write the following open letter to the company:
Dear Samsung,
As a nearly-forty year old woman I guess Iâ??ve gained a sense of my place in the world, by now. And heaven forbid, if your recent launches are anything to go by, that place should be anywhere but the bedroom, the kitchen, or the shopping mall.
Heaven forbid I, as a woman with 15 years experience covering the tech sector, should have any place at one of your launches as anything other than (frequently half-naked) eye candy.
It would be entirely too much to ask that when you planned your recent Africa Forum you considered NOT using scantily clad beauties to help launch your (wait for it) new fridge. I mean letâ??s face it, most of your target market for that sort of product is female. And women are totally into that, oh, no, actually, thatâ??s not us, thatâ??s 13-year old boys.
Then you launched the Samsung S IV, and what exactly where all those (admittedly dressed) ladies doing on stage? Oohing, aahing, cooing about their weight, shopping, cooking, and men.
Congratulations on alienating a substantial portion of your target market
Dear Samsung, congratulations on alienating a substantial portion of your target market, and I donâ??t just mean us prissy journalists with no sense of humour or fun either.
It may have escaped your attention but us dearest, little darlings have salaries, and budgets, and we buy fridges, and tvs and smartphones (once our husband has told us what to buy, oh, no, wait, that was 1950).
Fifty percent of products marketed to men are purchased by women, who, incidentally, contribute $7 trillion to consumer and business spending in the US. And you, dearest Samsung, are doing a fabulous job of alienating every one of those dollars.
Thank you, Samsung, for putting us in our place. Because we now know your place is not in our handbags, our bedrooms, our lounges, our kitchens or our shopping lists.
Humbly yours, from the kitchen,
Samantha Perry (@samanthaperry)
Samsung’s response:
Samantha Perry’s open letter to Samsung went viral, receiving media attention and creating international interest. On 20 March, Samsung South Africa issued a press statement formally apologising for the controversial launch of its consumer products at Africa Forum last week.
The statement, by head of corporate marketing and communications, Michelle Potgieter said that:
â??It has come to our attention that, following recent Samsung events, there was dissatisfaction by the use of the selected promotional/entertainment ladies to unveil and demonstrate the new line up of product/s.
Samsung South Africa are committed to embracing a variety of consumers across our very diverse local market and in no way intended to isolate or offend any one of these audiences through these events.
As a result, we would like to apologise for any offence caused in this regard and assure you that we acknowledge your views and opinions on the matter. To this end, we will endeavour to be more sensitive around these issues going forward and will raise all relevant matters with our Head Quarters and respective regional head offices accordingly.
Furthermore, Samsung would like to assure all media and consumers that we in no way intend to favour any particular type of consumer, where each consumer and target audience represents a viable portion of our business and as a result, we will continue to embrace all consumer needs and requirements within the market.�
GirlGuides welcomes this statement and hopes that other companies will learn from Samsungâ??s example
All across Africa, women are discriminated against in the IT world and massively under-represented in high skilled roles partly as a result of intimidation and fear in the workplace. The issue of women and technology has never been more acutely sensitive than it is now, and we believe that leaders like Samsung have an enormous role to play in helping everyone, regardless of age, gender, race or colour, to benefit from the rapid developmental advances modern technology can bring.
Both the letter and Samsung’s response were first published on